Thousands of Ethiopians from the northern region of Tigray have fled to neighboring Sudan over the past week to escape escalating violence between federal government forces and communist guerrilla leaders.
DW reported on Wednesday that around 6,000 people had entered Sudan’s border provinces of Kassala and al-Qadarif by the end of Tuesday. This number is expected to exponentially rise to 200,000 by the end of the week. Among those fleeing the conflict were at least 30 Ethiopian soldiers seeking protection.
“The number is increasing around the clock,” said Alsir Khaled, an official from the refugee commission in Kassala. “These people need shelter and medical treatment and food, and there is a great shortage. If the conflict continues, we expect an increase in the flow of refugees.”
The fighting began after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive against the leaders of Tigray’s regional government, which the federal government in Addis Ababa does not recognize.
Many of these leaders belong to the communist guerrilla group known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which is seeking to secede into a sovereign communist state.
In a statement last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about attacks launched by the TPFL against the Ethiopian military.
“The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front carried out attacks on Ethiopian National Defense Force bases in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on November 3rd,” the statement read.
“We are saddened by the tragic loss of life and urge immediate action to restore the peace and de-escalate tensions,” it continued. “The protection of civilian safety and security is essential. We will continue to follow this situation closely. The United States stands with the people of Ethiopia and will work with all who are committed to peace, prosperity, democracy, and the rule of law.”
The outbreak of violence is taking place less than a year after Prime Minister Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work negotiating an end to the more than 20-year post-war territorial stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea, raising fears of a civil war in Africa’s second-most populous country.