Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared Monday his government could easily recruit one million new fighters but wants to foster a period of “silence” in the country’s war-hit Tigray region.
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s remarks came one week after Tigray’s capital Mekele fell to the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) rebel group and Abiy’s government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the eight-month-old conflict.
“In one, two or three weeks, 100,000 trained, armed and organised special forces can be mobilised,” Abiy told lawmakers.
But Abiy said officials had “decided there should be a period of silence for everyone to think”.
– Brink of famine –
Abiy did not address those conditions Monday.
According to the United Nations, over 400,000 people have already “crossed the threshold into famine” in Tigray and 1.8 million people are on the brink.
Last week the TDF paraded what it said were thousands of captive Ethiopian soldiers through the streets of Mekele.
He also offered lavish praise for the army.
– Proposed embassy closures –
Ethiopia’s economy, which relies heavily on tourism and agriculture, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the worst locust infestation in decades, with the war in Tigray adding an extra strain on state finances.
He also proposed several eyebrow-raising budgetary measures, including closing embassies.
He said the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya, for example, could be based in Addis Ababa and travel to Kenya to meet with officials while reading about Kenya in newspapers.
“What we want is a person who gets wet in the mud and runs while reforming the country,” he said.
His Prosperity Party is expected to secure a comfortable majority, but not enough results have been released to confirm the victory.