CAIRO – Ethiopian Prime Minister reorganized the country’s security agencies on Sunday, days after he ordered a military strike in the Tigray northern region, pushing the country toward a potential civil war .
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replaced the head of the intelligence agency and the commander in chief of the army, and appointed a new federal police commissioner. He also chose a new foreign minister.
Appointments were announced on Facebook, and a prime minister’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, said they “aim to facilitate the government’s implementation of law enforcement efforts beginning with increased security. security and foreign affairs of the country ”.
The moves put a multi-ethnic group of Abiy’s closest allies in key positions, increasing his strength as he fights a conflict, observers say. could jeopardize the country’s fragile democratic transition and lead to a divisive civil war.
“It’s a reform to better use human resources at the highest levels to cope with security challenges,” said Yohannes Gedamu, a political science lecturer at Georgia Gwinnett College, at Lawrenceville, Ga.
The move comes five days after Mr Abiy launched a military operation in the Tigray region after accusing their leaders of staging an attack on a military base and attempting to steal. artillery and military equipment. In the days that followed, Ethiopian fighters bombed targets in the area of resistance, with medical staff reporting intense fighting, dozens injured and at least six dead.
Mr Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner for helping end a lasting war with neighboring Eritrea, has accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, the organization that governing the region, of vandalism. constitution and federal law.
The Tigray people make up 6% of Ethiopia’s estimated 110 million population. But for nearly three decades, the group has gained massive national influence, which has faded from anti-government protests that brought Mr Abiy to power.
Relations between the regional and federal government have been strained since Mr Abiy became prime minister in 2018, but it hit new lows after the Tigray region held parliamentary elections in September. , despite the Ethiopian government postponing the national vote because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to postpone the vote has been criticized by many opposition groups, including the TPLF, that Mr Abiy is using the pandemic to illegally extend his term.
In October, the Ethiopian Parliament voted to cut Tigray’s funding, escalating hostility between the two sides.
Mr Abiy on Sunday doubled down on military operations, arguing that his government is going out to “protect and defend constitutional order and maintain the rule of law.” He also accused the TPLF – without presenting any evidence – of funding and training anti-government militias across the country, including recruiting “underage recruits” to destabilize. for the Horn of Africa nation.
“Their goal is clearly to render the country irreversible by inciting conflicts along lineages and religions – to sow divisions and discord that will make democratic transition possible. lost motivation “, Mr. Abiy said in a video statement.
The United Nations and other regional agencies have urged warring parties to de-escalate violence and find a peaceful solution.
But Mr Abiy has yet to pay attention to that, urging the international community on Sunday to “understand the context and consistent breaches of the TPLF group that have prompted the Federal government to take this law enforcement action.”
Diplomatic sources in Addis Ababa also said they expected the conflict to escalate in the coming days as the government dispatched troops across the country and moved them closer to the Tigray area.
Adanech Abiebie, the mayor of the capital Addis Ababa, confirmed in a series of tweets on Saturday that some TPLF members working in her administration were arrested for what she said was suspected of planning a peace-breaking scheme. average and participate in terrorist activities.
To gain control of the resistance zone, Abiy’s government blocked the internet and telephone networks in Tigray, declared a six-month emergency and approved the creation of an interim regional government. A special task force emergency has also been established, with the power to impose a curfew, arrest and restrict modes of transport.
On Saturday, the United Nations Coordinating Office for Humanitarian Affairs warned of the escalation of the fighting in Tigray, saying that air and road congestion due to the conflict had seriously affected operations. humanitarian aid for hundreds of thousands of people.
It also said that nearly nine million people are “at high risk” of being affected by the escalation and that it is likely to lead to “leading to massive displacement in and out of Ethiopia.”
Sajjad Mohammad, head of the United Nations humanitarian office in Ethiopia, said a shortage of bread and fuel had appeared in the area.
“There are almost two million people getting some sort of humanitarian aid in Tigray,” he said. “If supply lines close, that number could rise even further.”
Abdi Latif Dahir reports from Cairo, and Simon Marks from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tiksa Negeri contributed reports from Gondar, Ethiopia.