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Ethiopian PM sacks top officials as Tigray conflict mounts | Ethiopia



Abiy Ahmed fires his army chief and other high aides, as reports of causalities continue to rise in Tigray.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sacked his army chief, head of intelligence and foreign minister, as the military continues a five-day operation in the northern Tigray region with a new round of air raids.

Abiy’s office made the announcement on its Twitter feed on Sunday, giving no reasons for the changes, as the reported number of soldiers wounded in the conflict continued to rise.

It said Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen had been appointed foreign minister and Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff, from deputy army chief.

Abiy also named Temesgen Tiruneh, who was president of the Amhara region, as the new intelligence chief.

The prime minister is pursuing a military campaign he announced in the early hours of Wednesday, despite international pleas for dialogue with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in order to avoid civil war.

In a report on Saturday, the United Nations said nine million people were at risk of displacement from the escalating conflict, warning that the government’s declaration on Wednesday of a state of emergency in Tigray was blocking food and other aid.

Tigrayans dominated Ethiopian politics for decades until Abiy took office in 2018. They are fighting his efforts to reduce their influence.

Reports of causalities

Meanwhile, a medical official told the AFP news agency that 98 government soldiers had been treated for gunshot wounds at a hospital in the neighbouring Amhara region, the latest indication that fighting has been intense.

Abiy and military leaders have touted Ethiopian soldiers’ successes against forces loyal to the TPLF, but a communications blackout in the region has made their accounts difficult to verify.

An Ethiopian military plane bombed a missile and artillery site next to the airport in the Tigray region’s capital Mekelle on Sunday, one military and two diplomatic sources told the Reuters news agency, which noted that it was not immediately clear what was destroyed in the bombing.

The sources said the plane left a military base in the city of Bahir Dar in Amhara.

New army chief Birhanu told a state-run newspaper on Sunday that the army was in control of several towns near the border with Eritrea, including Dansha and Shire, but he did not say when the army had seized those areas.

It was impossible to verify the report because of the communications blackout in the region.

Reports of dead and wounded soldiers have mounted in recent days in Amhara, where a humanitarian aid worker said three died and 35 were treated on Saturday, according to AFP. On Friday, 105 were reported injured and five killed in the region.

Abiy spoke on Saturday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who “offered his good offices”.

According to the UN spokesman, Guterres also spoke with African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in his capacity as chair of the regional Africa group IGAD.

Experts have voiced concerns the conflict could not only break Ethiopia apart but also reverberate across the region and draw in outside forces.

“This could be the start of a civil war, but that is not certain,” said Martin Plaut, a longtime observer of politics in the Horn of Africa. “The situation in Tigray is one of many crises in the country, but could intensify, drawing in other Ethiopian regions, while also threatening neighbouring Sudan and Eritrea.”

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Top New York state lawmaker says Cuomo ‘must resign’ | Politics News



Pressure is mounting on Governor Andrew Cuomo to step down amid allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing increased pressure to step down, after he was accused by several women of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behaviour.

In a statement shared by local media on Sunday, New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said accounts of alleged wrongdoing against Cuomo are “drawing away from the business of government”.

“New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign,” she said.

Several women have come forward in recent weeks to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment and misconduct, including inappropriate comments of a sexual nature, as well as unwanted sexual advances.

Cuomo, who drew national attention for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, has also been criticised after US media outlets reported that his top aides obscured the true number of people killed by the coronavirus in the state’s nursing homes.

“We have allegations about sexual harassment, a toxic work environment, the loss of credibility surrounding the COVID-19 nursing home data and questions about the construction of a major infrastructure project,” Stewart-Cousins said in her statement.

Cuomo has also faced criticism after US media reported his aides obscured the true number of coronavirus-related deaths in nursing homes in New York state [File: Yuki Iwamura/AP Photo]

State Assembly Speaker Carl E Heastie also spoke out on Sunday about the allegations, which he described as “deeply disturbing” and having “no place whatsoever in government, the workplace or anywhere else”.

“I too share the sentiment of Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins regarding the Governor’s ability to continue to lead this state. We have many challenges to address, and I think it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York,” Heastie said in a statement, as reported by local media.

While Cuomo at first denied any wrongdoing, he said on February 28 that he “never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm”.

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” he said in a statement at that time.

New York is still in the midst of this pandemic… We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state, Governor Cuomo must resign

Andrea Stewart-Cousins, New York State Senate Majority Leader

Last week, he apologised and said he would cooperate with an investigation into his conduct, but would not resign.

He reiterated that position on Sunday, telling reporters during a conference call that it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down.

“They don’t override the people’s will, they don’t get to override elections,” said Cuomo, when asked about members of his own party calling for his resignation. “I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.”

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