Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has vowed to lead the Ethiopian forces “from the battlefront” in the fight. against rebels from the country’s northern Tigray region after they moved closer to the capital Addis Ababa.
The Nobel Peace Prize winning leader issued a statement urging young Ethiopians people to join the battle as concerns grow about the country’s worsening civil war.
“Starting tomorrow, I will mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces,” Mr Abiy said on Twitter late on Monday.
“Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children, who will be hailed by history, rise up for your country today. Let’s meet at the battlefront,” the 45-year-old said.
Mr Abiy did not specify where he intended to go exactly or which front he will lead. The prime minister has the rank of lieutenant colonel in the army and fought in the 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The statement also suggested the war had become an existential threat to the country, issued just hours after the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) forces said they were advancing on at least four fronts towards Addis Ababa.
The TPLF forces claimed they took control of the town of Shewa Robit, about 136 miles northeast of the capital, which the Ethiopian government has denied.
The TPLF’s spokesperson, Getachew Reda, said: “Our forces won’t relent on their inexorable advance towards bringing [Abiy’s] chokehold on our people to an end.”
Tens of thousands were killed and millions were displaced in the year-long war between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF, which maintained power in Ethiopia for nearly 30 years before Mr Abiy’s took office in 2018.
The war erupted in November last year after the government accused the TPLF fighters of raiding government military camps to steal weapons and other equipment. The TPLF leaders say their final objective is to end a block by the government forces on their six million civilian population and oust Mr Abiy from power.
The Ethiopian prime minister, who is a former soldier, won the Nobel Prize in 2019 for leading negotiations that ended with a peace agreement with neighbouring Eritrea – a deal that sidelined the TPLF.
His statement came after the ruling party, the Prosperity Party, had met to discuss the war.
After the meeting, Ethiopian Defence Minister Abraham Belay told state media that the military would adopt a different war strategy without providing details.
“There will be change,” Mr Belay said. “What happened and is happening to our people, the abuses being meted out by this destructive, terrorist, robber group, can’t continue.”