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Conflict looms in Ethiopia as tensions between Addis Ababa and Tigray region escalate

FEARS of war and the possible break-up of Ethiopia were raised today as the northern Tigray region blocked a military appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

The unnamed brigadier general is said to have flown north to Tigray on Thursday evening, but returned to the capital Addis Ababa after being told “his appointment would not be considered legitimate.”

Senior Tigray People’s Liberation Front official Getachew Reda said that “any appointment or troop movement” is “totally unacceptable.”

The party, which rules the Tigray regional parliament, said that the PM no longer has a mandate for such moves.

The row between the powerful northern state and the government threatens to escalate into a full-blown war, analysts have warned, and could even see the region break away and split the Ethiopian state.

Tensions escalated last month when Tigray pressed ahead with regional elections in defiance of Addis Ababa. Mr Abiy has delayed a national poll which was due to take place in March, citing coronavirus.

He deemed the election unconstitutional, sparking a dispute that led to federal parliamentarians calling for Addis Ababa to cut funding to the Tigray parliament.

Ethiopia’s Tigray region is one of 10 autonomous states in a country riven by tribal and ethnic conflict.

It is controlled by the TPLF, a powerful force in national politics since its army overthrew the Deng administration in 1991.

But it has been locked in a power play with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since refusing to merge into his Prosperity party, which replaced the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

Tensions have risen over the control of federal-military personnel based in Tigray, with Mr Abiy’s plans to reshuffle the leadership of the armed forces in the region rejected.

An International Crisis Group report warned today that the stand-off “could trigger a damaging conflict that may even rip the Ethiopian state asunder.”

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