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Ethiopia PM vows to 'bury the enemy'

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 27/11/2021 Agence France-Presse

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed Friday (Saturday in Manila) to "bury the enemy" in what state media said was his first message from the battlefront, as the United Nations warned that the yearlong conflict has left more than 9 million people in need of food aid.

As Tigrayan rebels report major territorial gains, claiming this week to have seized a town just 220 kilometers 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 counteroffensive against the rebels, handing over regular duties to his deputy.

In an interview shown Friday on the state-affiliated Oromia Broadcasting Corp. channel, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said he was certain of achieving victory against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group.

"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 Kassagita and planned to recapture Chifra district and Burka town in Afar region, which neighbors Tigray, the TPLF's stronghold.

"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 on Thursday against sharing information on battlefield outcomes that was not published by official channels, a move that could bring sanctions against journalists.

The war has exacted a huge humanitarian toll, with the UN's World Food Program (WFP) saying Friday that the number of people requiring food aid in the country's north had surged to more than 9 million.

Hundreds of thousands are on the brink of famine as aid workers struggle to deliver urgently-needed supplies to desperate populations in Tigray, Amhara and Afar.

The WFP said the situation had sharply deteriorated in recent months, with an estimated 9.4 million people facing hunger "as a direct result of ongoing conflict," compared with around 7 million in September.

"Amhara region — the frontlines of the conflict in Ethiopia — has seen the largest jump in numbers with 3.7 million people now in urgent need of humanitarian aid," WFP said.

"Of the people across northern Ethiopia in need of assistance, more than 80 percent (7.8 million) of them are behind battle lines."

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