Ethiopian government troops push towards Tigray capital, rebuff mediation

News Alert: Ethiopia says PM Abiy will receive AU Chair envoy “one on one”; news circulating on media quoting Ramaphosa’s statement on mediation “fake”

The Ethiopian government also disclosed that its forces are now on course to the regional capital, Mekelle, where many believe senior TPLF leaders are presently stationed.

Adigrat is 116 km (72 miles) north of regional capital Mekelle. They have denied destroying bridges but were not reachable for comment about ploughing up roads.

Last week, the rebel group has fired rockets into neighboring Eritrea, claiming that its soldiers were deployed and fighting against Tigray forces along the border.

The Tigray region has been facing a rebellion since earlier this month.

The Ethiopian government has been blaming the TPLF, which was one of the four coalition fronts of the former ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF party), for masterminding various treasonous acts with an overarching goal of destabilizing the East African country.

The current position of the forces was hard to verify due to severed internet and phone lines, Reuters said earlier.

AU President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa informed Ethiopia's President Sahle-Work Zewde on Friday that he had appointed former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe as special envoys of the AU entrusted to facilitate negotiations between parties to end the conflict in Ethiopia.

However it also contradicted Ramaphosa, saying, "News circulating that the envoys will be traveling to Ethiopia to mediate between the Federal Government and TPLF criminal element is fake".

Abiy accuses the Tigrayan leaders of revolting against central authority and attacking federal troops in the town of Dansha.

Addis Ababa has launched a security operation against the forces, calling the TPLF a "military junta". The rebels say Abiy's government has marginalised and persecuted Tigrayans since taking office two years ago.

The United Nations and other aid agencies have said the conflict is creating a humanitarian crisis in Tigray, where many among the more than 5 million population were already displaced and relying on food aid even before the conflict.

Hostilities erupted November 4 after months of tension between the federal and regional governments.

The TPLF is popular in the Tigray region and dominated national politics until 1991.

The UN Refugee Agency estimated that up to 200,000 people could take refuge in eastern Sudan in the coming six months if instability in Tigray continues, Dujarric said.

Thousands of refugees in Hamdayet and another crossing point, Luqdi, have been lining up for jerry cans and helpings of cornflour porridge and putting up makeshift tents under scrubland trees.

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