Reinforcements are coming from Oromia – Ethiopia’s largest region – as well as from the Sidama region and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), according to official statements and state media.
The mobilization follows Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s warning on Wednesday that his forces would repel any attack by their enemies, thus tearing up a ceasefire declared by the government on June 28.
“The regional special forces of Oromia and Sidama have moved to the front line. Sidama’s special forces have arrived at the front line, ”state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported, adding that SNNPR forces had also arrived.
Abiy sent troops to Tigray last November, saying the move followed an assault on federal army camps ordered by the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The Prime Minister, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, declared victory at the end of November, but fighting persisted and TPLF leaders remained at large.
Then the war took an astonishing turn at the end of June when the rebels recaptured the capital of Tigray Mekelle and Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire, withdrawing most of the troops from the region.
This week, the rebels – which have been renamed the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) – launched a new offensive aimed at driving the forces of the Amhara ethnic group from the disputed territory in western and southern Tigray.
In response, security forces and Amhara militias rallied en masse, and a spokesman for that region, Gizachew Muluneh, said on Wednesday he was going into “attack” mode to reverse the rebels’ gains on the battlefield.
AFP journalists who visited the town of Adi Arkay near the Amhara-Tigray border on Wednesday saw thousands of newly mobilized Amhara fighters awaiting orders to advance.
Officials in northern Amhara have said they fear TDF fighters want to push south towards Addis Ababa and overthrow the government.
Oromia President Shimeles Abdisa told a press conference that the Tigrayan leaders wanted to “destabilize” the whole country.
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible those who work hard to revitalize this terrorist group. We have to stand united to do whatever it takes to neutralize it, ”said Shimeles.
TDF spokesman Getachew Reda said this week that the force will “liberate every square inch of Tigray”.
Two days after the capture of Mekelle by the TDF, he told AFP that his forces were ready to march on Addis Ababa if it was necessary “to secure Tigray”.
It was not known Thursday how many troops from different regions were sent to Tigray. Tens of thousands of people have died and around two million people have been displaced.
The war, characterized by gruesome massacres and rampant sexual violence, damaged Abiy’s reputation as a reformer and peacemaker, and severely strained Ethiopia’s ties with its traditional allies.
Western powers have demanded that the ceasefire be accompanied by unrestricted access to aid and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, warning of possible sanctions if these conditions are not met.
The World Food Program said this week it had reached Mekelle with food supplies, but that much more was needed to meet massive needs in a region where the United Nations says conditions of famine are already present.