Abiy swaps army chief and intelligence chief

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reshuffled his government amid the military offensive. He replaced the army chief, the secret service chief and the foreign minister without giving a reason.

Abiy is following a tough line in dealing with the breakaway Tigray region in the north of the country and has sent the military into the area. He announced further air strikes. “Our mission is aimed at ending the lawlessness that has been going on for too long and bringing those responsible to justice,” Abiy said on Twitter.

Parliament removes regional government

He again defended the military crackdown on the People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which ruled Tigray and was a powerful factor in all of Ethiopia until he took office in 2018. Tigray must be made to comply with Ethiopian law and statutes again.

The communication links to Tigray are interrupted. On Saturday, the upper house of parliament in Addis Ababa decided to remove the regional government of Tigray. She gave Abiy a free hand to set up a transitional government there and to take military action against the TPLF.

Pope prays for a peaceful solution

Because of the escalation, fears are growing that not only the country with its 110 million inhabitants but the entire region in the Horn of Africa could be destabilized. Sudan has already closed its borders with Ethiopia as a precautionary measure. Analysts and observers fear the conflict will have catastrophic consequences for Eritrea and Somalia as well.

Pope Francis expressed concern about the situation in Ethiopia. “I urge everyone to resist the temptation of armed confrontation,” said the head of the church during the midday prayer on St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. He invited “to prayer and brotherly respect, to dialogue and to a peaceful resolution of the conflicts”.

Guterres and Maas are calling for de-escalation

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an immediate de-escalation. “Stability in Ethiopia is important for the entire Horn of Africa region,” Guterres wrote on Twitter. The African Union also spoke of a “very delicate” situation. Similar warnings came from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his German colleague Heiko Maas.

Abiy has been the Prime Minister of Ethiopia since April 2018. The TPLF did not join the unity government formed by him. Tensions with the TPLF have been mounting since September when Tigray voted in what the central government declared illegal. Since then, both sides have accused each other of provoking a military conflict.