Ethiopia army threatens ‘no mercy’ in assault on regional capital

A soldier gestures as members of a military band arrive at the Primer Minister’s compound in order to attend an event to honour the national defence forces, in Addis Ababa, on November 17, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 23 November 2020

Ethiopia army threatens ‘no mercy’ in assault on regional capital

  • Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4
  • A communications blackout in the region has made claims from both sides in the conflict difficult to verify

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military on Sunday threatened an all-out assault on Mekele, capital of the dissident Tigray region and seat of the local government it is seeking to dislodge, warning civilians to flee while they still can.
“The next decisive battle is to surround Mekele with tanks,” Dejene Tsegaye, a military spokesman, told state broadcasters on Sunday, threatening a siege of the city.
He added a warning for Mekele’s half a million residents: “Save yourself. A directive has been communicated for you to dissociate yourself from this junta, after that there will be no mercy.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner — launched a military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4, accusing its forces of attacking two federal military camps in the region and the party of defying his government and seeking to destabilize it.
A communications blackout in the region has made claims from both sides in the conflict difficult to verify, but hundreds of people are reported to have been killed while tens of thousands have fled the fighting into neighboring Sudan.
Abiy’s government has claimed the capture of a string of towns in recent days, including the ancient city of Aksum and the town of Edega Hamus, 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Mekele.
“Defense forces have controlled Edaga Hamus city, which is on the road from Adigrat to Mekele,” the Ethiopia State of Emergency Fact Check, a government agency, said Sunday. “The defense force are currently marching on the campaign’s last goal, Mekele city.”
The TPLF claimed Saturday that civilians had been killed during a “heavy bombardment” of Adigrat town by the Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF). The government insists it does not target civilians.
The TPLF led the overthrow of Mengistu Hailemariam, head of Ethiopia’s military Derg regime, in 1991 and dominated the country’s politics until Abiy became prime minister in 2018.
The party continues to rule Tigray, one of 10 regional states under Ethiopia’s system of ethnic federalism whereby regions are delineated by ethnicity and language.
TPLF leaders have complained of being sidelined by Abiy and blamed for the country’s woes. The bitter feud with the central government led the TPLF to hold their own elections this year in defiance of a national postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Abiy has spurned all calls for peace, including from the African Union — which plans to send three former national presidents as special envoys in the coming days — the US and the UN which has warned of a looming humanitarian disaster.
His government regards the TPLF as a criminal administration and appears intent on winning the military battle rather than negotiating.
Military action has already spread beyond Tigray’s borders with the TPLF firing rockets at Asmara, the capital of neighboring Eritrea to the north, which it accuses of supporting the Ethiopian government, and the city of Bahir Dar to the southwest.
The campaign has seen warplanes bombing Tigray and heavy fighting, while Amnesty International has documented a gruesome massacre in which “scores, and likely hundreds, of people were stabbed or hacked to death” in the southwestern town of Mai-Kadra.
The UN has called for the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow aid agencies access, and has said it is preparing for as many as 200,000 refugees to flee unrest in the coming months.


Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

Updated 28 November 2020

Scotland leader ‘never been more certain’ of independence

  • The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference

GLASGOW: Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Saturday said she had “never been more certain” of achieving independence, with Britain’s final departure from EU trading arrangements set to precede key Scottish elections in the months ahead.

The head of Scotland’s devolved government and the leader of the pro-independence SNP told supporters at the party’s virtual conference that the prospect of a break between Scotland and the rest of the UK has never been closer.

“Independence is in clear sight — and with unity of purpose, humility and hard work I have never been so certain that we will deliver it,” she said.

Sturgeon and the SNP have argued for a second referendum on Scottish independence since the party’s overwhelming victory among Scottish seats in Britain’s 2019 general election.

Now she hopes that a further resounding win in May elections to the Edinburgh parliament will hand her party a mandate for a second bid to quit the UK.

Opinion polls in recent months have shown that a majority of public opinion in Scotland now supports independence.

The country chose to remain part of the four-nation United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum on the issue.

But Scots later voted by a thumping majority in 2016 to remain in the European Union, a referendum the Leave side won by a narrow margin when taking the rest of Britain into account.

Since then, “we have won a landslide victory in a UK general election and support for independence has risen, it has become the sustained and majority view in public opinion this year,” said Sturgeon.

“Who should be taking the decisions that shape our futures? We know that it is the people who live here, wherever they come from, who can best harness Scotland’s immense human and natural resources.

“Let us reach out to all Scotland like never before,” she added.

Sturgeon urged her party to “demonstrate ... that Scotland is ready to take our place in the global family of independent nations,” saying it was “now a nation on the brink of making history.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly rebuffed calls from for a another referendum, saying that the 2014 vote settled the question for a generation.

Earlier this month, Scottish independence campaigners seized on comments by the prime minister in which he said the creation of a devolved parliament in Edinburgh had been “a disaster.”

In response Sturgeon said the only way to protect the parliament was “with independence.”

On Thursday, she said a referendum could be held “in the earlier part” of the next parliamentary session.

“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future. Let’s now focus all our efforts on making sure we bring about that better country they and future generations deserve,” Sturgeon said on Saturday.