In Ethiopia, Tigray’s ousted rulers flee to the mountains

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The Economist
December 1,2020

The battle is over. The war is not

THE BATTLE, in the end, was mercifully short. The 500,000 inhabitants of Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, were spared a large-scale bloodbath. On November 28th Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, declared victory over Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). A military operation started a few weeks earlier was complete, he said. This came two days after he announced an assault on the city that the army had earlier warned would brook “no mercy”. Shelling of the city began at about ten that morning, according to eyewitnesses. By the evening Tigray’s president, Debretsion Gebremichael, and other TPLF leaders had vanished into the mountains. Crowds in the national capital, Addis Ababa, and elsewhere broke into celebration.

But the fighting has not stopped. Only hours after Abiy’s announcement of victory, rockets were fired for the third time from Tigray into Eritrea, a country to its north that has been assisting Ethiopian forces. There have since been reports of sporadic clashes and airstrikes, as well as looting in towns including Mekelle. “We have a plan to retake our towns from the invaders,” Debretsion told The Economist by text message. The International Committee of the Red Cross says hospitals in the regional capital are flooded with injured people. Medical supplies for the wounded and body bags for the dead are running low.