Four days after the Ethiopian prime minister said on social media that he would personally direct the country’s military at the front, a regional broadcaster has released pictures of Abiy Ahmed walking through the bush in army fatigues and speaking on a military radio.
Appearing confident and relaxed, the 45-year-old leader also gave an interview in which he discussed the central government’s military campaign against rebel fighters from the region of Tigray.
“This hill was occupied by the enemy until yesterday,” he said, gesturing over this shoulder. “Now it is under our control, the moral of the army was great we were victorious, we now control Kasagita.”
The district is located in the region of Afar, which contains key transport routes linking landlocked Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti.
Yet, the principal objective for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is thought to be the capital, Addis Ababa, with intensive fighting taking place several hundred kilometres north of the city.
As well as directing the military effort, the prime minister is also trying to raise morale after a year of sometimes brutal fighting.
Mr Ahmed repeated his call for all able-bodied Ethiopians to join the fight.
“The public is with us, our brothers in the diaspora are also voicing their support. Academics are voicing their support and our responsibility is to fight from the front line.”
Mediation efforts by the United States and the African Union in pursuit of a ceasefire have made little progress with both parties seemingly determined to win a military victory.
Humanitarian groups like the United Nation’s World Food Programme say the consequences are severe with more than nine million experiencing hunger “as a direct result of ongoing conflict” and an estimated 2.5 million displaced from their homes.
Some viewed Mr Ahmed’s relocation to the battlefield as an act of desperation after the cities of Dessie and Kombulcha were lost to the TPLF but the prime minister said his forces have taken the upper hand.
“You saw what we have achieved in just one day of fighting and it will continue tomorrow and then there are big victories coming up. The enemy doesn’t have the strength or the means to compete with us.
“We will hand over a free and prosperous Ethiopia to our children. That is why we are here.”
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