In an unverified recording attributed to Debretsion Gebremichael, the TPLF leader calls on supporters to “organize and fight” against the federal government.
A Tigrayan media outlet released an audio statement of what he said was Debretsion Gebremichael, the ousted leader of the conflict-affected region in Ethiopia, in which he reiterates a call to arms.
The authenticity of the recording attributed to Debretsion could not be independently verified.
The statement, which would be his first public statement in nearly two months, was released on Facebook on Saturday via Tigrai Media House, a media outlet affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), based in the United States.
In November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered military operations targeting leaders of the TPLF, the regional ruling party, a move he said came in response to attacks orchestrated by the TPLF on army camps. federal.
Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, declared victory in late November when federal forces captured the regional capital, Mekelle, but reports of low-level fighting continued and TPLF chief Debretsion remained on the run .
“They [the federal government] have temporary military dominance, ”the recording said, alleging abuses such as rape and looting, information of which has also been brought to light by the United Nations.
“We are engaged in prolonged resistance.”
In the audio, Debretsion reportedly said: “The towns and rural areas of Tigray are bombarded day and night by heavy artillery.
“I call on you, wherever you are … to organize and fight and strive to ensure that all who are of fighting age take up the fight, and thereby shorten the lifespan of the enemy. “
It was not clear when or where the recording was made.
But Kjetil Tronvoll, a TPLF expert with contacts deep within the party, said he believed the recording to be genuine.
“Although I have not spoken to [Debretsion] personally, he has spoken to other contacts of mine in recent days, ”Tronvoll, from Bjorknes University College in Norway, told AFP news agency.
Asked to comment, Billene Seyoum, spokesperson for Abiy, said: “I cannot speak about the illusions of the Facebook page of a criminal clique”.
The TPLF and foreign donors have sought to deflect attention with baseless genocide allegations since November to cover up their own “horrific crimes,” she told Reuters news agency, urging nations and the foreign media to denounce them.
Thousands of deaths
Since the beginning of the fighting, thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine in the region of more than five million people.
A regional interim administration based in Mekelle says life is returning to normal and Abiy’s government says it is sending aid.
Yet aid workers and some officials in Tigray have warned of a humanitarian catastrophe marked by widespread famine.
Reports from all sides are difficult to verify as the government has largely isolated Tigray from the media and foreign aid workers. Telecommunications in many areas are not working.
The recording called on Tigrayans abroad to provide time and money to support fighters and foreign nations to condemn the Ethiopian government, saying Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki should be charged in court international.
Dozens of witnesses said Eritrean troops were present in Tigray to support Ethiopian forces, although both nations deny it.
Meanwhile, government-affiliated broadcaster Fana reported that authorities were setting up a task force to investigate growing concerns about violence against women in Tigray.
The Minister for Women, Children and Youth, Filsan Abdullahi, has reportedly said the government has a zero tolerance policy for all forms of sexual violence.