Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s forces are preparing new engagements with the Tigray Liberation Front, as thousands train on gravel roads off the A2 highway, near to the front line of the conflict.
Heading north along Ethiopia’s A2 highway, we quickly noticed that the road had turned into an elongated car park for the country’s military – the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF).
Near the city of Dessie in the region of Amhara, we saw dozens of trucks, tanks and armoured personnel carriers parked by the side of the road.
Every few kilometres or so, we were stopped by surprised looking soldiers who asked us to produce our papers.
We were heading towards the front line in a nasty civil war between the national government and their partners in Amhara, and the rebellious region of Tigray. The two sides have been massing their forces – and trading blows – on the fields and mountain slopes close to the highway.
The Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, sent troops into Tigray last November as he tried to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) from power. A series of events, culminating in an attack on a number of federal army camps, had raised the political temperature to boiling point.
The war took a stunning turn in June when rebel fighters forced Mr Ahmed’s forces out of the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle. The prime minister declared a unilateral ceasefire, but the fighting continued as the TPLF moved south into neighbouring Amhara.
Their advance has now been checked, it seems, with members of local militia units telling us the Tigrayans have made a series of significant retreats.