Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addressed the country’s parliament on Monday, heaping praise on the army for its triumph in Tigray, even as the region’s embattled leader said his rebel forces were fighting back ‘on all fronts’.
Federal troops took Tigray’s capital Mekelle at the weekend, marking defeat for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the region’s ruling party.
But Tigray’s fugitive leader Debretsion Gebremicheal on Monday said that the fighting was not over.
Debretsion, in a phone interview with The Associated Press, said he remains near the Tigray capital, Mekele, which the Ethiopian army on Saturday said it now controlled. Far from accepting Abiy’s declaration of victory, the Tigray leader asserted that “we are sure we’ll win.”
He also accused the Ethiopian forces of carrying out a “genocidal campaign” against the Tigray people. With the Tigray region still cut off a month after the fighting began, no one knows how many people have been killed, and it’s difficult to verify the warring sides’ claims.
In parliament, Abiy denied army soldiers had killed civilians or damaged any installations in Mekelle.
Each government regards the other as illegal after Abiy sidelined the once-dominant Tigray People’s Liberation Front after taking office in early 2018.
The fight is about self-determination of the region of some 6 million people, the Tigray leader said, and it “will continue until the invaders are out.”
He asserted that his forces held an undetermined number of “captives” among the Ethiopian forces, including the pilot of a fighter jet that his side claims to have shot down over the weekend.
A communications blackout in the region has made it virtually impossible to verify the claims made by either side.
The Tigray leader also asserted that his forces still have several missiles and “we can use them whenever we want,” though he rejected a question about striking at the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, saying the primary aim is to “clear Tigray from the invaders.” He again accused Abiy of collaborating with neighboring Eritrea in the offensive in Tigray, something Abiy’s government has denied.