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Ethiopia says PM, a Nobel Peace laureate, is at the battlefront

Ethiopia says PM, a Nobel Peace laureate, is at the battlefront

Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning PM has gone to the battlefront. His administration revealed on Wednesday. It was after the leader suggested that martyrdom may be a requirement in the year-long conflict with enemy forces approaching the capital.

Abiy Ahmed, a 45-year-old former soldier, was not visible on state media. His spokeswoman Billene Seyoum dismissed a request for information on his whereabouts as “incredible”. According to a government spokesman, Ethiopia PM arrived at the battlefront on Tuesday.

The fighting between Ethiopian federal and ally troops and fighters from the country’s Tigray area has killed thousands of people. The idea of Ethiopia’s historic nation dissolving has terrified Ethiopians and observers alike. They are concerned about what might happen to the Horn of Africa as a whole. France, Germany, and Turkey have all advised their citizens to evacuate immediately.

Abiy received the Nobel Peace Prize only two years ago for sweeping political reforms and establishing peace with Eritrea. Many people were in shock to see the Ethiopia PM at the battlefront, his rise from Nobel Prize winner to prospective combatant.

Traditional Ethiopian exertion of leadership

According to Christopher Clapham, a retired professor affiliated with the University of Cambridge, a move to the front would follow in the footsteps of Ethiopian leaders such as Emperor Haile Selassie and Emperor Yohannes IV. They died in battle in 1889.

“It strikes me as a very traditional Ethiopian exertion of leadership,” Clapham said. “It might be necessary to rescue what looks like a very faltering Ethiopian military response.”

The Tigray troops, which had long dominated the national government before Abiy’s election, looked to be gaining ground. They’ve been approaching Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, in recent weeks. They have hopes of bolstering their negotiation position or just pushing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to resign.

Martyrdom needed

While unprecedented, a leader’s deployment to the front has happened elsewhere in Africa, with terrible consequences. Chad’s longstanding president, Idriss Deby Itno, died in April while fighting rebels, according to the military.

“The situation is extremely dangerous,” said Adem Abebe, researcher with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. “If (Abiy) gets hurt or killed, it’s not just the federal government that will collapse, the army will as well.”

The prime minister announced his deployment to the front lines earlier this week. He stated that “this is a time when leading a country with martyrdom is needed”. Meanwhile, spokesman Legesse Tulu said Wednesday that the deputy prime minister is in charge of the government’s day-to-day operations.

Abiy also encouraged Ethiopians to fight alongside him; the latent demand for every capable citizen in the country of over 110 million people to join the war. In recent months, there have been reports of rushed military training and charges of forced conscription. Observers have also warned that ethnic-based militias are rising as the military appears to be weaker.

“He may be seriously considering becoming a martyr,” said the man who nominated Abiy for the Nobel, Awol Allo. He is a senior lecturer in law at Keele University in Britain.

Nascent progress in mediation efforts

The decision, according to Allo, accords with the prime minister’s self-perception and belief that he was born to lead. He didn’t rule out the notion, though. Abiy had likewise merely fled the city for a safer area, not the front. He was now leading the fight from there.

On Tuesday, US envoy Jeffrey Feltman told reporters that he has concerns that “nascent” progress in mediation efforts with the warring parties may overtake by “alarming” military developments.

In November 2020, a growing political schism between Tigray’s leaders and Abiy’s government erupted into outright violence. Abiy authorized Eritrean forces to enter Tigray to attack ethnic Tigrayans in secret. Thereby, culminating in some of the war’s worst atrocities. For months, he denied the Eritreans’ presence.

The Tigray soldiers have also stated that, among other things, Abiy must leave. As part of their terms, Abiy’s administration wants Tigray forces to retreat to their territory. It has been labeled as a terrorist group.

No peaceful resolution

“Unless there is some kind of divine intervention, I don’t see any chance for a peaceful resolution through dialogue because the positions are highly polarized,” said Kassahun Berhanu, professor of political science at Addis Ababa University. He added he believed Abiy’s announcement about going to the front aims at boosting popular morale.

During the conflict, millions of civilians are trapped and becoming hungry. Ethiopia’s government imposed a blockade on the Tigray region for several months. Thereby, citing concerns that humanitarian aid will fall into the hands of fighters. Hundreds of thousands of people in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions do not have aid. It is Tigray forces advance through those areas.

The supply line from neighboring Djibouti to Ethiopia’s capital looks to be one of the Tigray forces’ targets. The US envoy also warned the rebels against cutting it off or approaching Addis Ababa.

Feltman also told reporters on Tuesday that this might be “catastrophic” for the country.

Olesegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s envoy, has also been mediating. But has not spoken publicly about his efforts in recent days.