International concern is rising about an offensive by Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Ethiopia’s federal authorities on Monday said they will assume control of airports and other infrastructure in the region, while the Tigray regional government said it would respect an African Union call for an immediate cease-fire.
Ethiopian authorities said Monday their forces will take charge of the aviation, transport and communication infrastructure in the embattled Tigray region.
The head of the Horn Institute for Strategic Studies, Hassan Khannenje, told VOA the government’s goal is to control the movement of the rebels and humanitarian services in the Tigray region.
“Any limitations to the ability to transport and move around and communicate tends to heighten an existing situation such as the humanitarian situation is ongoing right now in Ethiopia,” Khannenje said. “In fact, humanitarian organizations are going to find it harder to reach in those areas, and communication is going to be limited in regards to assisting for help or humanitarian assistance. So, of course, that is going to make things worse for those who are already vulnerable.”
The government defended its move to take over key facilities in the Tigray region, saying the move will protect the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and speed up humanitarian aid to those who need assistance.
In a statement, the government blamed the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front for violating the five-month-old cease-fire in August and carrying out an offensive against government forces and allied militia groups.
On Saturday, the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, called for a new cease-fire and resumption of humanitarian services.
The Tigray leadership said they are not to blame for the escalation of the conflict and are ready to respect a cease-fire. The TPLF also called for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops in the region and for the international community to press the Ethiopian government to begin peace talks.
This month’s planned talks in South Africa failed to take off, and logistical challenges were blamed for the postponement.
The Ethiopian government said Monday that it is committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict through the African Union-led talks.
However, the government and TPLF have yet to agree on who should lead the reconciliation process.
Nasong’o Muliro teaches diplomacy and international relations at the Technical University in Kenya. He says mediation and political settlement take time but there is an immediate need to push for a cease-fire and provide urgent humanitarian support to the war victims.
“We should not allow the idea of who should be a mediator to further delay the situation,” Muliro said. “The humanitarian situation is firsthand in any peace process. Before we even jump to the mediator… if there is a cease-fire, then have we provided the welfare, the survival mechanisms for the victims, before we think of resolving the conflict.”
The conflict which began in November 2020 in the Tigray region between the government forces and the Tigray rebel group has led to the deaths of tens of thousands. Rights groups accuse both sides of committing widespread human rights violations.
The U.N. humanitarian office says 20 million Ethiopians need humanitarian assistance and thousands of people continue to flee conflict in the north of the country due to conflict.