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11 Nov 2020 | 10:19 AM UTC

Sudan: Thousands of refugees flee conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region November 11 /update 1

Sudanese authorities announce that thousands of refugees have fled conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as of November 11; monitor developments

entry/exit
security
SDN

Event

The Sudanese government announced on Wednesday, November 11, that over 6000 refugees have entered Sudan due to the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, despite the decision by the Al-Qadarif state government to close the border with Ethiopia. Refugees have been arriving in the areas of Hamdayit, Qudaymah, and Luqdi. An official stated that authorities expect as many as 200,000 people to arrive in Al-Qadarif state in the coming days, overwhelming current refugee infrastructure.

Increased security measures and patrols are likely along the borders with Ethiopia in the medium term, with associated disruptions likely in border areas.

Context

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he had ordered a military offensive in the Tigray Region on November 4, after accusing security forces aligned with the regional TPLF of attacking ENDF positions in the state. The operation follows two years of escalating tensions between the TPLF and the federal government in Addis Ababa, which they had previously dominated before the appointment of Abiy as prime minister in 2018, amid claims that the region was being marginalized by his sweeping reforms program. However, tensions reached a high point in September when the TPLF staged their own regional elections in the Tigray region in defiance of a decision by the government to suspend national polls due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The federal government subsequently declared the vote illegal and the upper house of Ethiopia's parliament voted to withhold budgetary subsidies to Tigray in early October. Amid the rising tensions, regional authorities also issued a statement on Tuesday, November 3, accusing Addis Ababa of planning a war in the Tigray region.

On Sunday, November 8, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reportedly removed Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew, Chief of Defense Staff General Adam Mohammed, and Head of National Intelligence and Security Service Demelash Gebre-Michael from their positions, amid ongoing clashes in the Tigray Region of the country. Additionally, former Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew has been appointed as security advisor to the Prime Minister.

Previously, on Friday, November 6, the Abiy announced that the Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) had conducted airstrikes against alleged TPLF-aligned forces in the Tigray Region amid continued clashes in the state. Abiy stated that the airstrikes had targeted several long-range 'rocket launchers' in areas around the regional capital Mekele on Thursday, November 5, after they were seized by TPLF-aligned forces. The government claimed at the beginning of the offensive on November 4, that the TPLF had seized artillery systems and other equipment from ENDF bases around Mekele, but it is unclear whether the rocket systems targeted in Thursday's strikes had been appropriated in the initial alleged uprising.

Abiy did not specify what type of rocket systems had been destroyed in the airstrikes but stated that they had a range of around 300km (185 miles), similar to a Scud-type short-range ballistic missile. Several major cities, particularly in the Amhara region, are within this range of Mekele but it is unclear whether the alleged capture of the rocket systems provided the trigger for military intervention in the Tigray Region, nor whether the TPLF-aligned forces had the capability to operate them.

Advice

Those in southeastern Sudan are advised to monitor developments in Ethiopia, avoid non-essential travel in the vicinity of the border, and heed any directives issued by local authorities.

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