Ethiopia’s prime minister has said he will go himself to the front line to face rebels who are reported to be inching closer to the capital as civil war rages on.
Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize back in 2019, implied that Ethiopia’s very existence was at stake.
The year-long conflict with rebels from the Tigray region has led to a humanitarian crisis.
Hundreds of thousands are facing famine-like conditions in the north.
Thousands of people have been killed and millions forced from their homes.
“Starting tomorrow, I will mobilise to the front to lead the defence forces,” Mr Abiy said in a post he shared on social media on Monday evening.
“Those who want to be among the Ethiopian children, who will be hailed by history, rise up for your country today. Let’s meet at the front,” he added.
The prime minister has the rank of lieutenant colonel in the army and fought in the 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
He won the Nobel prize in 2019 after finally ending nearly two decades of tension that continued after the war by signing a deal with Eritrea.
Mr Abiy’s announcement on Monday came as Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) forces said they were advancing on at least four fronts, towards Addis Ababa.
The Ethiopian government has denied this. The tone of the prime minister’s speech carried both an air of defiance, and, to some, of desperation, reports the BBC’s Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.
The TPLF has dismissed Mr Abiy’s statement with its spokesperson, Getachew Reda, saying that “our forces won’t relent on their inexorable advance towards bringing [Abiy’s] chokehold on our people to an end”.