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Ethiopia: Fugitive Tigray Leader Reportedly Speaks Out After Two Months, Calls For Resistance

The fugitive leader of Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region, Debretsoin Gebremichael, has reportedly made his first public comments in three months, urging the international community to investigate alleged “genocide” and other abuses by forces including those from neighboring Eritrea.

He also issued a fresh call to arms according to an audio message released by a Tigrayan media outlet.

It was not immediately possible to verify the audio comments by Debretsion Gebremichael posted late Saturday by Tigray-allied media outlet Dimtsi Weyane. He has been on the run since shortly after fighting broke out in early November between Ethiopian and allied forces and those of the Tigray region who had dominated the country’s government for nearly three decades.

In the audio purporting to be from Gebremichaels, Ethiopia’s federal government forces are accused of rape and looting, supported by the Eritrean forces.

“They (the federal government) have temporary military dominance,” said the recording, alleging abuses like rape and looting, reports of which have also been highlighted by the United Nations.

“Many have paid and many are continuing to pay the ultimate sacrifice,” Debretsion said. He urged Tigray residents to “continue the struggle” and vowed to do the same against those who are “working with all their might to destroy our existence and identity.”

The recording is Gebremichael’s first comment in public or via media since early December. It was posted on Facebook by a media outlet affiliated with the former ruling party the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“The cities and rural areas of Tigray are being bombarded day and night by heavy artilleries. I call upon you, wherever you are … to organise and fight and to strive to make all who have reached fighting age take up the fight, and through this to shorten the lifespan of the enemy.” the fugitive TPLF ex leader said.

It was not clear when or where the recording was made.

Thousands of people have died, hundreds of thousands have been forced from homes and there are shortages of food, water and medicine across the region of more than 5 million people since Ethiopia’s federal army launched an offensive in Tigray on November 4.

Tigrayan leaders complained of being sidelined by Abiy sidelined after he took power in early 2018 and introducing political reforms that led to him being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But his government and the now-fugitive Tigray came to regard each other as illegitimate. Relations were shattered after Ethiopia delayed its national election last year to mid-2021, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. But Tigray went ahead to hold theirs, triggering the anger of the Abiy-led Ethiopian government which described the election as illegal.

Fighting broke out after Tigrayan security forces attacked federal government’s military facilities in the region, leading to loss of lives.

According to reports, despite the declaration of victory by the federal troops, the Tigray conflict continues largely in shadow. Some communications links are severed, residents are scared to give details by phone and almost all journalists are blocked.

Thousands of refugees have fled Tigray to neighbouring Sudan. The United Nations say the numbers are rising by the day.

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