Removed leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray promises ‘resistance’

Ethiopia – (warsoor) – A Tigrayan media outlet has released an audio statement of what it said is Debretsion Gebremichael, the removed leader of Ethiopia’s conflict-hit region, in which he issues a fresh call to arms.

The authenticity of the recording attributed to Debretsion could not be independently verified.

The statement, which would be his first public statement in nearly two months, was aired on Facebook on Saturday via the United States-based Tigrai Media House, a media outlet affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

In November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered military operations targeting leaders of the TPLF, the regional governing party, a move he said came in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.

Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, declared victory in late November when federal forces took the regional capital, Mekelle, but reports of low-level fighting have continued and TPLF leader Debretsion has remained on the run.

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

“We are engaged in extended resistance.”

In the audio, Debretsion purportedly said: “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.”

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

But Kjetil Tronvoll, an expert on the TPLF with contacts deep within the party, said he believed the recording was genuine.

“Though I have not spoken to [Debretsion] personally, he has spoken to other contacts of mine in recent days,” Tronvoll, of Bjorknes University College in Norway, told the AFP news agency.

Asked to comment, Billene Seyoum, spokeswoman for Abiy, said: I “cannot to speak to the delusions of a criminal clique’s Facebook page.”

The TPLF and foreign backers have sought to divert attention with unfounded genocide claims since November to cover up their own “horrendous crimes”, she told the Reuters news agency, urging foreign