Ethiopia claims it has the capability to re-enter the seized Tigrayan capital if necessary.
If required, an Ethiopian government spokesman said Wednesday that the Ethiopian army may reenter Mekelle, Tigray’s regional capital.
The declaration was made to reporters by Redwan Hussein, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s task force for Tigray, in the government’s first public remarks since the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) seized control of Mekelle earlier this week.
“We can easily enter Mekelle if it is required, and we can enter in less than three weeks,” Redwan stated.
After nearly eight months of violence in the region, the Ethiopian government announced a cease-fire on state television late Monday, claiming it would take effect immediately.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Tigray military spokesman Getachew Reda said the cease-fire was a “sick joke” and threatened to push Ethiopian and Eritrean forces out.
Ethiopian troops are still fighting to retake land, according to Getachew, while Eritrean forces still control a “major section” of the area.
Getachew also told the Associated Press that the TPLF would not engage with Ethiopia until key utilities like communications and transportation were restored, which had been damaged or destroyed during the war.
Getachew stated, “We have to make sure that every inch of our territory is returned to us, the real proprietors.”
Despite the Ethiopian government’s unilateral cease-fire, rebels in Ethiopia’s Tigray area threatened Tuesday that their troops would seek to damage Ethiopian and Eritrean forces’ capabilities.
A senior member of Tigray’s regional government told The New York Times later Tuesday that Tigray’s leadership was committed to “weakening or destroying” the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies’ capabilities “wherever they are.”
Lieutenant General Bacha Debele, speaking at an Ethiopian government news conference in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, warned that troops could return soon.
“If they try to provoke us, our response will be massive, even greater than the previous one,” Bacha stated.