In Ethiopia, government claims to have taken Lalibela site from rebels

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St. George's Church in Lalibela, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia announced, Wednesday 1is December, the resumption by pro-government forces of the Lalibela site, classified by Unesco as a world heritage site, which in August came under the control of rebels from the Tigray region. The Prime Minister’s government is seeking to reclaim territories still in rebel hands.

At the same time, the UN humanitarian flights between the capital, Addis Ababa, and Makalé, in the Tigray region, “Have been reinstated”, announced the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, referring to “A little bit of hope” in this conflict which has been opposing pro-government and rebel forces from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) for more than a year. Flights had been suspended since October 22 after airstrikes.

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After recent announcements by TPLF fighters of territorial gains as part of a strategy to march towards Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last week he was heading to the battlefield.

“Territorial adjustments”

Since then, the government has announced that it has regained control of several small towns, including Shewa Robit, about 220 km northeast of the capital by road and Lalibela on Wednesday. Pro-government forces have “Seized the historic town of Lalibela and the international airport of Lalibela”, announced the communication service of the government in a press release. This site is particularly famous for its rock-hewn churches in the Amhara region, dating from the 12th century.e and XIIIe centuries.

The statement added that pro-government forces “Also walk on the city of Sekota” in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia, even as fighting reportedly spread to Debre Sina, a town less than 200 km by road from Addis Ababa. Earlier Wednesday, Ethiopian authorities claimed pro-government forces recaptured the town of Shewa Robit, a week after Tigrayan rebels claimed responsibility for it.

In a statement Wednesday evening, the TPLF military command denied government successes, saying the rebels were doing the opposite. “Territorial adjustments” before “Strategic offensives”. In June, the rebels had recaptured most of Tigray, then advanced into the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, where they claimed in early November to have seized the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, a strategic crossroads. on the road to the capital. The fighting is currently taking place on three fronts, including one near Debre Sina.

In recent days, state media have broadcast images of Abiy Ahmed in uniform in what appears to be the Afar region. On Sunday, these media claimed that the army was in control of the Afar town of Chifra. Abiy Ahmed promised further successes to come to Amhara on Tuesday.

Beijing against “any interference”

While Washington has openly criticized Mr. Abiy’s handling of the war, China and Russia have been more cautious. Ethiopia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday tweeted images of a press briefing by senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi during his visit to Ethiopia, reproducing his statements: “China opposes any interference in Ethiopia’s internal affairs”.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, is leading intense diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire, but little progress has been made so far.

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Ethiopian officials have previously said rebels must withdraw from Amhara and Afar before a “Peaceful solution” could not be found, which the TPLF refused.

War erupted in November 2020 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to the Tigray region to remove local authorities from the TPLF who challenged his authority and accused him of attacking. military bases. In nearly thirteen months, the war has claimed thousands of lives, displaced more than 2 million and plunged hundreds of thousands of others into near starvation conditions, according to the UN.

The World with AFP

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In Ethiopia, government claims to have taken Lalibela site from rebels