Billene Defends PM’s Decision to Lead Army from Front, says SoE Highly Effective

ADDIS ABABA – Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s decision to lead the troops from the front is not an escalation – rather a constitutional responsibility to preserve and ensure State cohesion which he has to dispense, the Prime Minister office of Ethiopia said.

Briefing reporters today, foreign press Secretary of the PM Office Billene Seyoum said the decision does not mean a change of the government’s position for “a peaceful solution to the conflict in principle”.

Rather, it aims at “averting the conspiracy of terrorist organizations working in collaboration with their foreign allies,” Billene said.

His decision, she said, has boosted “troop morale and emboldened the people of Ethiopia to resist and push back the threat of a terrorist organization”.

The counter-offensive has, so far, forced the TPLF to relinquish their occupation of key areas, particularly Kasagita, Chifra and Burqa.

“The advance on the Mille front in the Afar region by the terrorist forces which was aimed at chocking off the entire country from the main corridor for goods entering into the country has successfully been thwarted with further advances being made by Government forces,” Billene added.

She noted the call made by the PM today for TPLF fighters “to surrender peacefully and end the needless loss of a generation of Tigrayan youth”.

“This is an extension of the several similar calls made by the Government of Ethiopia early in the conflict, and is aimed at halting further bloodshed,” said press secretary of the PM Office.

‘Highly effectivr SoE’

The government of Ethiopia enacted the nationwide state of emergency in the first week of November.

Billene said the emergency law has been put in place as preventive measure for “sinister actions” planned by the terrorist group in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country.

It was “enacted to avert the threats against the existence and sovereignty of the country considering the scale of killings, looting and other cruel and inhumane attacks that have been perpetrated by the terrorist organization as well as its affiliates predominantly in Northern parts of the country and other pocket areas,” the press secretary continued.

“The state of emergency, thus far, has been highly effective in foiling the plan of the terrorist groups who have tentacles embedded within civilian populations and are working with foreign powers to weaken destroy Ethiopia,” she said.

Through searches undertaken so far, the spokesperson said small arms and light weapons, combat communication equipment, uniforms stolen from armed forces, federal army and police, foreign passports, fake ID cards, counterfeit currencies, foreign and local currencies beyond legal limits have been seized in searches by the security apparatus.

“These small examples give the extent of organising that the terrorist group has been undertaking through its networks to continue undertaking its heinous crimes throughout the country but which are being foiled and thwarted,” Billene said.

Humanitarian response in Amhara, Afar

According to the PM office, recent data shows that the escalation of the war by the TPLF into Amhara has brought the number of internally displaced persons in the region to more than 1.1 million.

The displaced people are mainly from Waghimra, South Gondar, North Gonda, Central Gondar, South Wollo, North Wollo, North Shoa of the region and Wolkaite-Tsegede.

Additionally, 5.6 million people have also been affected by the conflict. “Emergency food assistance by the government, partners, local communities as well as private sector is being facilitated,” Billene told reporters.

In Afar region, the affected people and displaced persons are estimated at more than 260, 000 and 100, 000, respectively, according to the PM office.

“This data will no doubt increase considering the attacks of the TPLF that had been wedged in the people of Afar in the past couple of weeks,” said Billene, adding government and state agencies together with partners are mobilising resources to support the people in need.

The press secretary said, as of October 21, over 36, 000 quintiles of foods including wheat, rice, pulse and oil, for more than 230, 000 displaced people.

“The regional health bureau is deploying mobile health teams in conflict affected Woredas and IDP sites,” she added.

UN Resumes Flights to Tigray

The United Nations Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS) has resumed its flights to Mekelle since November 23, 2021. Since then, two rounds of flights have been conducted through.

“Humanitarian partners were able to rotate their staffs in and out of Tigray and transfer operational cash to the region,” Billene said.

At least 19 partners have managed to transport an estimated 40 million Birr to Mekelle for administration and program budgetary expenditures.

Besides, at least 330 aid trucks are currently headed to the region from Semera through Abala Road carrying more than 9, 600 metric tons of food and 1, 680 metric tons of non-food items.

“A total of 116 trucks have already reached Mekelle town over the past few days,” Billene added.

From July to Oct alone, the Government’s National Disaster Risk Management Commission has facilitated humanitarian cargo movement from the Semera-Abala Corridor.

During this period, a total of 1,114 trucks have been deployed to Tigray regional state.

“But, only 322 trucks have been returned. Those trucks are still unaccounted for but we know where we are seeing these trucks are popping up,” the press secretary added.

Stop ‘Rhetoric of Doom’

The PM office has alsk reiterated its request to some foreign governments who are continuously intensifying “rhetoric of doom’ about the security situation in the country in general and its capital in particular.

While there are conflicts in pocket areas, the press secretary of the PM Office said “it is also erroneous to portray the entire country as being engulfed in an all-out civil war”.

“The Ethiopian government repeats that fear and panic mongering about the situation in Addis Ababa and the country is irresponsible and unnecessary,” Billene said.

“It is extremely disappointing that some key partners have been taking the lead here and encouraging and mobilising other partners to further intensity this rhetoric of doom,” she said.

“Creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity for political purposes is squarely to be rejected,” Billene added.

The press secretary also reiterated the ethiopian security forces are achiving “decisive military victory over the terrorist group and regained control of areas as has been witnessed in the past few days”.

“Measures the terrorist group will continue untill the TPLF becomes no longer becomes the peace and security of the country,” she said.

Commenting on the disinformation campaign being waged by the TPLF, she said the social media platforms are silencing pro-Ethiopia voices and trying to bring regime change.

”In social media, we particularly believe that Twitter is targeting and suspending pro-Ethiopia voices that are raising awareness about the TPLF atrocities and its lies,” she said

However, Ethiopians in the diaspora have continued raising their voices united, according to the press Secretary.

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