Ethiopian Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed is pressing ahead with a military campaign he announced on Wednesday against the northern region of Tigray. The International community is calling for dialogue between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
On Friday the Prime Minister vowed air strikes in Tigray would continue. The initial strikes targeted arms depots and military sites.
Humanitarian support disrupted
About 600,000 people in Tigray depend on food aid to survive, while another 1 million receive other forms of support, all of which have been disrupted, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released Saturday.
Clashes between federal troops and Tigrayan forces had broken out in eight locations in the region, according to the report.
Six combatants were killed and more than 60 wounded in fighting near the border between the Tigray and Amhara regions, a humanitarian source told Reuters on Sunday. Both sides suffered casualties and some of the wounded were brought to hospitals in and near the town of Gondar, the source said.
Efforts to combat a locust infestation also jeopardised
A desert locust infestation in East Africa has hit Tigray particularly hard and efforts to combat the insect swarms are feared to have stopped because of the conflict, risking further damage to crops, the U.N. report read.
Abiy said on Twitter on Saturday that his military campaign "aims to end the impunity that has prevailed for far too long," he said.
Animosity between Abiy and his former allies has grown steadily since 2018. Tigrayans complain of persecution under Abiy, an ethnic Oromo, who ordered the arrest of dozens of former senior military and political officials from the TPLF in a crackdown on corruption. Last year, Abiy reorganised the ruling coalition into a single party that the TPLF refused to join.
Experts and diplomats are sounding alarms of a potential civil war that could destabilise the country of 110 million people in the strategic Horn of Africa region.
The federal military's biggest command, and the majority of its heavy weapons, are stationed in Tigray. One of the biggest risks is that the army could plit along ethnic lines, with Tigrayans defecting to their region's own force.
Tigrayan forces number up to 250,000 men and have their own significant stocks of military hardware, experts say.
"The fragmentation of Ethiopia would be the largest state collapse in modern history," a group of former United States diplomats said in a statement published by the U.S. Institute of Peace on Thursday. The escalation of the conflict would also kill remaining hope for the democratic reforms Abiy has promised, the statement read.
Abiy spoke on Saturday with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who "offered his good offices." The U.N. chief also spoke on Saturday to the African Union's Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat and to Sudanese Primes Minster Abdalla Hamdok in his capacity as chair of the regional Africa group IGAD,.