Ethiopia: Amid peace talks, fighting reported in Tigray region
NAIROBI, Kenya - With the mediation talks over the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia going on in the Republic of South Africa, intensive fresh fighting has been reported in the fragile state, which could interfere with the process according to experts.
The BBC reports that fresh fighting has been reported, with the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] and their Eritrean counterparts targeting the civilian population under the pretext of pursuing the Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF].
Prior to the talks, the TPLF had called for a cessation of hostilities, adding that the Eritrean troops ought to leave the country immediately for the sake of smooth talks. Getachew Reda, the group's spokesperson, claimed Asmara was keen to commit genocide in Tigray.
A senior military commander with the Tigray forces told the BBC that the clashes near the town of Adwa involved heavy artillery and tanks. The Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have vowed to retake control of strategic towns even in the middle of the ongoing talks in South Africa.
Reporters in Ethiopia believe the outcome of the fresh fighting could determine who controls the road leading to Mekelle, the regional administrative capital of Tigray. It is on this road that stakeholders have urged both parties to allow humanitarian teams access to civilians by removing blockades.
There have also been reports of clashes involving forces from neighboring Eritrea near the border with the Afar region. Last month, the TPLF withdrew from Afar and Amhara regions despite the two states fighting alongside the national army, with an aim of blocking Eritreans from accessing Tigray.
Ethiopian military and its Eritrean allies recently took control of major towns in Tigray including Shire, Aksum, and Adw. Tigray People's Liberation Front had pledged to launch retaliatory attacks from the national army to continue with an offensive in the region.
In South Africa, the talks to end the 23-month bloodbath in Tigray entered the third day under the control of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta. Throughout this time, the media has been blocked from covering the proceedings.
The fighting started in November 2020 when TPLF attacked ENDF Northern Command leading to heavy clashes to date. Efforts to reconcile TPLF and Ethiopian forces have been futile, with stakeholders accusing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of doing little to avert the stalemate.