Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday sacked the country’s army chief, head of intelligence, and foreign minister, as the government’s conflict with the northern Tigray region escalates, reported Africa News.
In a statement, Abiy’s office said that Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen had been appointed foreign minister and Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff, from deputy army chief. Temesgen Tiruneh, who was president of the Amhara region, has been named as the new intelligence chief.
The statement offered no reasons for the changes, as the reported number of soldiers wounded in the conflict continued to rise.
Tension mounted in September after the Tigray held its elections, defying Abiy’s government calling the vote illegal. Last week, the Ethiopian prime minister also accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an ethnic faction in the north of the country, of attacking a federal military base and stealing equipment.
The federal army is continuing its offensive on the area as it launched airstrikes to destroy military assets in the region. Dozens of casualties have been reported with reports of more airstrikes. It is feared that the fighting could spark a civil war.
Tigrayans dominated Ethiopian politics for decades until Abiy was elected and reorganized the ruling coalition into a single party which the TPLF refused to join.
According to a United Nations report published on Saturday, nine million people risk displacement from the escalating conflict. It also warned that the fighting was blocking food and other aid to the Ethiopian people.
On Friday, the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called for the immediate de-escalation of tensions amid reports of shelling and the gathering of troops along Tigray’s borders.
“I’m deeply alarmed over the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The stability of Ethiopia is important for the entire Horn of Africa region,” he said.