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Ethiopia PM not rebuffing calls for calm as clashes intensify, says spokeswoman

By Reuters | November 10th 2020 at 08:50:57 GMT +0300

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends a signing ceremony with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia December 7, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is not rebuffing international calls for calm, his office’s spokeswoman said on Tuesday, amid an escalating conflict in the Tigray region that many fear is sliding toward civil war.

“There is no rebuffing of anyone by the prime minister. He had acknowledged and given gratitude for the concerns shown,” the spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, said in a response to a request for comment on a diplomat’s assertion that Abiy was “not listening to anyone”.

“Nevertheless, Ethiopia is a sovereign nation and its government will ultimately make decisions in the long-term interest of the country and its people.”

The violence in the northern area bordering Eritrea and Sudan threatens to destabilise Africa’s second-most populous country. Ethnic conflict in the region has simmered since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took over in 2018.

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Abiy, the continent’s youngest leader at 44, won a Nobel Peace Prize last year for democratic reforms and for making peace with Eritrea.

But last week the prime minister, who is from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, launched a campaign against forces loyal to ethnic Tigrayan leaders in the northern region. He accused them of attacking a military base.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest conflict, sources on the government side said on Monday.

But Abiy said fears of chaos were unfounded: “Our rule of law operation is aimed at guaranteeing peace and stability.”

The United Nations wants Abiy - a former soldier who once fought alongside Tigrayans against Eritrea - to start a dialogue.

Diplomats have told Reuters Abiy intended to press ahead with the military campaign, which he believes he can win against a battle-hardened group with substantial military equipment and supplies of their own.


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