Aug. 10 (UPI) — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday called for civilians to enlist in the military to help the country’s fight against rebels in the northern Tigray region after a series of losses.
Ahmed made the appeal after an increase in fighting in June in which the Tigray People’s Liberation Front recaptured much of Tigray, which is home to the ethnic Tigrayan, Irob and Kunama people.
The TPLF is a former paramilitary group turned political party that had its political registration terminated earlier this year amid allegations of violence.
“Now is the right time for all capable Ethiopians who are of age to join the Defense Forces, Special Forces and militias and show your patriotism,” Ahmed said.
The Ethiopian government designated the TPLF as a terrorist organization in May, some seven months after fighting broke out. The TPLF previously ruled over the country and retook control of the Tigray region amid the uptick in fighting, and recently spread into the Amhara and Afar regions, The Washington Post reported.
The fighting has also dealt blows to the Ethiopian military as well as the supporting militaries belonging to Eritrea and other ethnic militias.
The violence has forced some 2 million people from their homes, sparking famine conditions for more than 400,000 people. The United Nations said another 1.8 million are at risk of famine.
“Some are suggesting the numbers are even higher,” acting Undersecretary-General Ramesh Rajasingham said in July. “Thirty-three thousand children are severely malnourished and, moreover, the food insecurity crisis will continue to worsen during the impending rainy season, as food supplies are exhausted, and the risk of flooding and waterborne diseases, including cholera, increases.
Ethiopia declared a unilateral cease-fire in June through the end of farming season, which runs through September.
Ahmed said rebels haven’t allowed farmers to plant crops, while rebels accused the government of preventing aid to come through.
“It has become apparent that Tigrayan farmers will not be able to farm safely unless the people of Tigray are forever separated from the terrorist group,” Ahmed said.