A full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ethiopia, the UN has warned with 4,000 people a day, mostly children, fleeing the fighting in Tigray.
Hundreds have died in a military offensive and atrocities since Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister, declared war on the region’s rulers two weeks ago for defying his authority.
The Nobel peace prize committee has made a rare interjection on the subject of Ethiopia’s bloody slide into civil war amid criticism that it was too hasty to honour Mr Abiy, 44.
Last year’s Nobel peace prize winner has spurned international pleas for dialogue and de-escalation in the conflict, which threatens the stability of the fragile Horn of Africa and, some fear, ethnic cleansing. Africa’s youngest leader told the UN and others that he would sit down with rebellious leaders from Tigray only once he had restored the rule of law. Regional analysts have said that Mr Abiy’s ambitions to crush dissent in the ancient kingdom are unrealistic.
A deadline for regional rulers to surrender has now expired, setting the scene for fierce fighting as government troops push on Mekelle, Tigray’s hilly capital, which is heavily defended by regional forces and loyal militia groups. More than 200,000 people are expected to be made refugees if the conflict continues. Already more than 27,000 refugees, most of them children, have spilt across Tigray’s border into Sudan, which is struggling to maintain its own peace after last year’s revolution.