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Fears of a brewing humanitarian disaster in Ethiopia, as Sudan moves troops to the border and prepares for refugees 

Several Ethiopians, including army soldiers, have fled the escalating conflict in the heavily armed region of Tigray to neighboring Sudan.

Sudan has sent more than 6,000 troops to the border, a military official there said.

The flare-up in Ethiopia’s northern region bordering Eritrea and Sudan has killed hundreds of people, according to Ethiopian sources on the government’s side.

The United Nations and others have warned of a brewing humanitarian disaster affecting up to 9 million people.

It comes as the Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sought on Monday (local time) to reassure the world his nation was not sliding into civil war.

“Concerns that Ethiopia will descend into chaos are unfounded,” Mr. Abiy said in a brief statement Monday, vowing that what he calls a law enforcement action “will wrap up soon.”

The worsening conflict threatens to destabilise the African nation, where ethnic conflict has already killed hundreds since Mr Ahmed took over in 2018.

Four Ethiopian families alongside 30 armed federal army soldiers crossed the border to Sudan’s Al-Luqdi area in the eastern al-Qadarif state on Monday, Sudanese state news agency SUNA reported citing witnesses, adding that the soldiers belong to Amhara tribes.

Large numbers of other fleeing Ethiopians crossed the border to rural areas in al Fashqa region in al-Qadarif state, the agency added.

Local officials in the region are working with the Sudanese Commission of Refugees to prepare a camp to host the fleeing Ethiopian refugees, it said.

Residents living in Sudanese border areas confirmed the report to Reuters.

The local government in al-Qadarif state began closing its border with the Ethiopian regions of Tigray and Amhara on Thursday evening until further notice, in response to the conflict.

Sudan’s Security and Defence Council discussed the developments in Ethiopia on Monday and called all parties to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict, SUNA said.

Ethiopia ‘pounding’ targets with air strikes

Ethiopia’s air force was “pounding targets with precision”, a military official said on Monday, as the federal government continued its offensive against Tigray and no clear route to peace is seen.

The northern Tigray region is largely cut off from the outside world, making it difficult to verify each side’s assertions.

Each accuses the other of starting the fighting, Ethiopian Major General Mohammed Tssema, who spoke of the “pounding” by the air force, also took to Facebook to deny a claim by the Tigray regional government that a fighter jet had been shot down.

The Tigray regional government, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, confirmed the federal government’s aerial assault, saying in a Facebook post that the air force had carried out more than 10 such attacks so far.

Ethiopia’s prime minister has shown no sign of opening talks with the TPLF, which once dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition.

TPLF is now regarded as illegal by the federal government, after it broke away last year as Mr Abiy sought to transform the coalition into a single Prosperity Party.

The TPLF felt marginalized by Mr Abiy’s political reforms and defied the federal government by holding a local election in September.

Mr Abiy on Sunday reshuffled his Cabinet to make major changes to his government’s military and intelligence leadership in an apparent move to bring supporters of the military offensive to the forefront.

“There’s no indication this is anything but a full-scale federal government attempt to remove the TPLF leadership. They seem intent on that course,”

International Crisis Group analyst Will Davison

“No one’s interested in negotiations at this stage. At least, no one’s interested in making concessions toward them.”

“If this conflict becomes entrenched, will the federal government start to look for a negotiated solution and the Tigray leadership do the same?”

International Crisis Group analyst Will Davison

Diplomats and others asserted that the conflict in Tigray could destabilise other parts of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country with 110 million people, scores of ethnic groups, and other regions that have sought more autonomy.

The conflict in Tigray pits two heavily armed forces against each other in the heart of the strategic Horn of Africa, and experts worry that neighbors including Sudan, Eritrea, and Somalia could be sucked in.

Source: ABC News

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