Rebels from Ethiopia’s Tigray region fired rockets at the capital of neighbouring Amhara region on Friday, Amhara authorities said, raising concern that a conflict between the insurgents and the central government could spill into a wider war.
Two weeks into the conflict, the United Nations said it was making plans for as many as 200,000 refugees fleeing into neighbouring Sudan.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people have been killed and tens of thousands of refugees have already fled from fighting in Tigray as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tries to hold his ethnically diverse nation together.
“The illegal TPLF group have launched a rocket attack around 1:40 a.m. in Bahir Dar,” the Amhara government’s communications office said, referring to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The rockets caused no damage, it said.
Axel Bisschop of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR told a briefing in Geneva that 31,000 refugees had already reached Sudan, surpassing a contingency plan for 20,000. “The new planning figure is around 200,000.”
UNICEF’s Sudan-based representative Abdullah Fadil worried about the impact on Sudan, already hosting 1 million refugees from other African wars.
“Our serious concern is if we do not act quickly with the resources needed…this could unravel not only Ethiopia but also Sudan,” he told the same briefing.
Ethiopia, a federation of 10 ethnic regions, was dominated for decades by Tigrayans in a TPLF-led ruling coalition, until Abiy, who is of Amhara and Oromo descent, took power two years ago. He says he aims to share authority more fairly. The TPLF accuses him of pursuing a vendetta against former officials.
The conflict erupted two weeks ago after what the government called a TPLF attack on army forces stationed in the region.