News Analysis: 50,000 displaced as result of fighting between Afar regional forces and Tigrayan forces says NGO; Regional officials vow victory, urge residents to stay vigilant

Awel Arba Afar regional state president Photo: Afar regional state communication Affairs office

By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan 

Addis Abeba, July 22/2021 – In a report that was last updated on July 20, 2021, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) said that well over 50,000 people have been displaced as a result of ongoing fighting between Afar regional forces and forces loyal to Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Fighting has broken out in major towns along the border area between Afar and Tigray regions and Tigrayan forces have taken control of at least four towns causing thousands to flee and looting valuables as a consequence, according to the NGO’s report. 

Tigrayan forces crossed into Afar region over the weekend, their crossing was confirmed on Monday by Afar region communication bureau head Ahmed Koloyta who told Reuters that federal forces were on the way and invading forces would be pushed back. On his part Getachew Reda, spokesperson for TPLF and its forces, confirmed the crossing and said that the aim was to weaken ENDF fighting capabilities. 

The fighting comes in the backdrop of Amhara regional state issuing a statement on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 calling to arms its residents then extending the call to all the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia to join the region fight against Tigrayan forces, at the time mobilizing to take control of western Tigray. Regional states responded to the region’s calls to arms by sending members of its special forces to the region to fight against Tigrayan Forces 

Similarly, earlier on Sunday, the Afar regional government in a statement echoed Amhara region’s calls to arms. The post read, “TPLF has waged war on the Afar people by expanding its terror network to Afar region and attacking Afar pastoralists,” it continued, “The regional government is working to ensure the safety of our people. Our special forces and our security apparatus are committed to stopping the attacks.” The Afar regional government like its counterpart in the Amhara region called on the entire Ethiopian people to come to the aid of the Afar region, “The different people of Ethiopia must join hands to fight this evil group.”  It urged the people to support the security forces and to stay vigilant by securing their areas.  

The call to arms was followed by a statement by the region’s peace and security bureau head Ibrahim Hamid who called on people to stay vigilant, join or support regional security forces  “People should be vigilant as the TPLF may repeat attacks  it launched in Yalo Woreda of Fanti Resu Zone (Administrative Zone 4).” He called on the Afar region residents to join the special forces and the regional police commision. The Peace and Security Bureau Head argued that the Afar Regional State and the Federal Government must work together to thwart TPLF plans and safeguard the region’s peace. 

The fighting in Afar region comes as reports that Tigrayan Forces blocked access to a road linking the capital Addis Abeba with Djibouti. It also comes as escalation contours with both sides (Amhara region and Tigrayan forces) issuing inflammatory statements as forces mobilize along both in western Tigray as well as the border area between Amhara and Tigray regions. It also comes amid a warning by the Chief of General Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Birhanu Jula to TPLF, to drop all preconditions and accept a ceasefire or be faced with a more prepared, stronger, experienced and well equipped army. 

Addis Standard Contacted both Afar peace and security and communication bureaus for comments on the number of IDP mentioned in the APDA report as well as other claims made in the report, however, Addis Standard’s attempts to reach both bureaus heads were to no avail. AS

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