Ethiopia Forces Key Personnel Changes Over Tigray Conflict

Ethiopian flag.
13 November 2020

Ethiopia has installed a new head of Tigray after accusing the troubled region's leaders of treason. It also pressured the African Union to sack its security chief, an Ethiopian from Tigray, saying he was disloyal.

Ethiopia's Parliament has appointed Mulu Nega as the new chief executive of conflict-hit Tigray, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Friday.

The announcement came as government troops pressed on with a military offensive against local forces in the northern region, where fighting over the past week has killed hundreds of people and forced thousands to flee their homes.

Amnesty International on Thursday confirmed reports of a "massacre" of civilians.

Ethiopia's government accuses Tigray's leaders of treason and terrorism, and has pushed for a caretaker administration to be installed.

Abiy said the new chief executive would now "appoint heads to lead executive organs of the regional state from political parties legally operating in the region."

AU under pressure from Ethiopia

Meanwhile, the African Union's chair has ordered the sacking of the bloc's security chief, an Ethiopian national, after the Ethiopian Defense Ministry raised concerns about the official's loyalty in the Tigray conflict.

According to a memo cited by Reuters, Gebreegziabher Mebratu Melese's was dismissed from his post on November 11.

In an earlier letter to the AU, also cited by the news agency, the Defense Ministry had described the security chief as a "Major General," and alleged he was not committed to the AU or the Ethiopian government.

The AU is headquartered in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. More than 4,000 Ethiopian troops currently serve in the bloc's peacekeeping force in Somalia.

EU says developments 'deeply worrying'

The situation in Tigray escalated on November 4, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, launched a military offensive in the restive region. He said it was in response to attacks by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) on a federal army base, a claim the TPLF denies.

The fighting has sent thousands of refugees fleeing over the border to neighboring Sudan, stoking fears of a humanitarian crisis.

The African Union has called for an immediate halt to fighting and for both sides to hold talks. But Ethiopia on Thursday insisted that the "cruelty" of the TPLF "cannot be addressed or redressed by sitting at a table for a negotiation."

The UN has urged Ethiopia to keep humanitarian corridors to Tigray open, stressing that otherwise "food, health and other emergency supplies have no way to make it into the region."

The EU, meanwhile, said in a statement that "ethnically targeted measures, hate speech and allegations of atrocities occurring in Ethiopia are deeply worrying."

nm/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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