AFP . Sun, November 29, 2020, 5:37 PM GMT+1
Refugees in Sudan from Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict on Sunday dismissed the Ethiopian prime minister’s declaration of victory in their northern region.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared military operations in Tigray “completed” after the army claimed control of the regional capital Mekele, a city of half a million before the conflict broke out three weeks ago.
“I heard the news yesterday on Ethiopian state television… but I don’t believe it,” said refugee Mangosto Dekhele who sought refugee in Sudan’s “Village 8” transit camp near the border.
“We will only believe it if it is confirmed by Tigrean media,” he said.
“Of course it’s true that Abiy is bombing Mekele and launching air raids, but controlling the cities (in Tigray) that is not possible,” he said, echoing many of his compatriots who fled to Sudan.
Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced on November 4 he had ordered military operations against leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the regional ruling party that dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before he came to power in 2018.
“I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the #Tigray region,” Abiy said in a Twitter post.
Tigray has been under a communications blackout throughout the conflict and media access has been restricted making it impossible to verify claims.
Little news filtered out of the city on Sunday even through official channels.
“I heard people in the camp speak of it (Abiy’s declaration). But it’s fake news,” said Haylo, a 20-year-old Ethiopian refugee who did not give his full name.
“Recently, he had announced capturing a small town but we later found out that it was just propaganda.
“Abiy is used to sending out false information to Ethiopians and the world. But we Tigrayans know him well,” added the young man.
Refugees questioned by AFP said they fully trusted the strength of Tigrayan forces, who they stressed were able to stand up to Abiy’s army.
“He cannot seize Mekele. It is a symbol for the Tigrayans and our leader Debretsion Gebremichael is much stronger that Abiy Ahmed,” said Simon Gabryones.
Another refugee, Genet Gebramayki, called Abiy a “liar”.
“He also lied about Mai-Kadra,” he said of the Tigrayan town where according to Ethiopia’s rights watchdog 600 civilians were massacred.
More than 44,000 refugees have crossed into Sudan since the fighting broke out in Tigray, according to the UN refugee agency.
On Sunday, more refugees poured in across the Lugdi crossing point, AFP reporters said.