NAIROBI -- Ethiopia's Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister has been to the front after the leader suggested that martyrdom might be necessary during the year-long war between rival fighters advancing on the capital.
According to a government spokesperson, Abiy Ahmed arrived at the front Tuesday.
Tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict between Ethiopian federal troops and their allied forces, as well as fighters from Tigray. Both Ethiopians, as well as observers, are alarmed at the prospect of the ancient nation falling apart. They fear for the stability of the Horn of Africa. France, Germany, and Turkey have all instructed their citizens to flee immediately.
Abiy received the Nobel Peace Prize in Peace just two years ago. It was for his political reforms and peacemaking with Eritrea. Many are shocked at his remarkable journey from winning the Nobel to potentially entering battle.
However, moving to the front would be in keeping with the tradition of Ethiopian leaders like Emperor Haile Selassie or Emperor Yohannes IV who were killed in battle in 1889. Christopher Clapham is a retired professor affiliated with the University of Cambridge.
Clapham stated, "It strikes my as a very traditional Ethiopian exertion leadership." "It may be necessary to save what appears to be a very weak Ethiopian military response."
The momentum seems to be in the Tigray forces. They had dominated the national government since before Abiy took power. In recent weeks, they have been approaching Addis Ababa's capital with the goal of strengthening their negotiating position and forcing the prime minister to resign.
Although it is rare, leaders have moved to the front in Africa. However, sometimes with fatal results. According to military records, Chad's longtime president Idriss deby Itno, died while fighting rebels in March.
Adem Abebe (researcher at the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) stated that "the situation is extremely dangerous." "If Abiy is hurt or killed, not only will the federal government collapse but also the army."
Prime minister Legesse Tulu announced this week that he would be going to the front lines.
Awol Allo is a senior lecturer in legal studies at Keele University in Britain. He said that Abiy may be considering becoming a martyr.
Allo stated that the prime minister views himself as a leader and the move is in line with his vision. He also said that Abiy could have left the capital to be in a safer place -- not at the front -- and directed the war from there.
On Tuesday, U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman stated to reporters that he is concerned about the slow progress of mediation efforts with warring parties and the "alarming military developments".
November 2020 was the start of war. A growing political rift between Tigray leaders, Abiy's government and Tigray leaders led to open conflict. Abiy allowed Eritrean soldiers to enter Tigray and attack the ethnic Tigrayans. This led to some of the most horrific atrocities in the war. For months, he denied that the Eritreans were present.
The Tigray force has stated that they want Abiy to leave, along with other demands. Abiy's government demands that the Tigray force, which it has declared as a terrorist organization, withdraw from their region in accordance with their conditions.
"Unless there's some kind of divine intervention I don't think there's any chance of a peaceful resolution via dialogue because the positions polarized are highly polarized," stated Kassahun Berhanu of Addis Ababa University. He also said that Abiy's announcement of going to the front was "aimed at boosting public morale."
Millions of civilians are being held hostage and starving in the midst of fighting. Ethiopia's government has blocked the Tigray region since several months. It fears that humanitarian aid might end up in fighters' hands. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people living in neighboring Amhara or Afar regions are unable to access significant aid due to Tigray forces moving through these areas.
The supply line connecting neighboring Djibouti with Ethiopia's capital is one target for the Tigray force. The U.S. ambassador warned the fighters not to cut off this road or enter Addis Ababa.
Feltman told reporters Tuesday that this could prove to be "catastrophic for the country."
Olesegun Obasanjo, African Union Envoy, has also been mediating, but has not spoken out publicly about it in recent days.