The Ethiopian government on Thursday downplayed a new military alliance announced by the country's two major rebel groups.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on Wednesday announced inking a military alliance to overthrow Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government in Addis Ababa.
However, at a news conference on Thursday afternoon, the Prime Minister's Press Secretary, Billene Seyoum, told reporters that the alliance between the two rebel groups is not a surprise to the Ethiopian government.
She said the government is not surprised by the “unusual marriage” of these two insurgent groups which were designated as terrorist entities in early May.
Billene said that TPLF and OLF’s public declaration of an alliance means they are acknowledging working together towards further destructive activities and indicates that “terrorism is a general feature of both [groups].”
The spokesperson said the current military alliance is a testament to the groups’ efforts to destabilise the country.
The Ethiopian government on Tuesday officially called on all able citizens to join the armed forces to destroy TPLF "once and for all".
When asked if the national calls mean that the country's national army is facing any challenge both in numbers and in strength, Billene said “the national call has nothing to do with the capability or efficiency of the army”.
She said the call was to protect the country's sovereignty and the well-being of its citizens.
"The TPLF is using a number of civilians for the war. These civilians are looting, destroying property, and raping women in the Amhara region. Therefore, it requires the concerted efforts of all citizens to prevent this," she said.
The official national call for civilians to join army is seen as an indication that Ethiopia has lifted the unilateral ceasefire it declared late in June
On this regard, the press secretary said that "the national call means that the government and people of Ethiopia will employ all means necessary to prevent the terror TPLF from spiralling the country into further instability".
She further said that a counter insurgency is ongoing to thwart threats posed by the Oromo rebels in Oromia and areas bordering the Amhara region.
During the past two weeks, OLA, also known by government as OLF-Shene, has claimed significant military victories as they reportedly advance in directions towards the capital Addis Ababa.
After OLF struck a military alliance with TPLF, the leader of the Oromo rebels, Kumsa Diriba, said "a regime change" by a military means is the only solution to resolve conflicts in the horn nation of over 110 million people.
The rebel leader, also known by the name Jal Maru, said that the coalition was "initiated by the TPLF" a few weeks ago.
He noted that the coalition had reached an agreement on the principle of fighting against "the common enemy" especially via military cooperation.
The two sides have begun exchanging military information in accordance with the military agreement, but the leader of the Oromo militant group has said they will not fight side by side for the time being and "perhaps the time will come when both will do so".