Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed Friday to “bury the enemy” in his first message from the battlefront, state media said, after he announced plans to lead a counter-offensive against Tigrayan rebels.
As the rebels report major territorial gains, claiming this week to have seized a town just 220 kilometres (135 miles) from Addis Ababa, international alarm over the escalating conflict has deepened, with foreign countries urging their citizens to leave.
State media reported Wednesday that Abiy, a former radio operator in the military who rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, had arrived at the front line to lead a counter-offensive, handing over regular duties to his deputy.
In an interview shown on the state-affiliated Oromia Broadcasting Corporation channel, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said he was certain of achieving victory in the battle against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
“Until we bury the enemy… until Ethiopia’s independence is confirmed, we won’t reverse course. What we want is to see an Ethiopia that stands while we die,” he said.
He added that the military had secured control of the town of Kassagita in the Afar region northeast of Addis Ababa and planned to recapture the nearby towns of Chifra and Burka.
“You’ve seen the victory we brought in one day’s battle. It will continue tomorrow, there are very big victories. The enemy doesn’t have the standing to compete with us, we will win,” he said.
The interview was broadcast hours after the government announced new rules Thursday against sharing information on battlefield outcomes that were not officially published by the authorities, a move that could bring sanctions against journalists.
Abiy’s government, which has presided over the year-long war, insists the TPLF’s gains have been overstated, criticising what it describes as sensationalist media coverage and alarmist security advisories from Western embassies.