Sheila Rule, "Ethiopia's President Admits the Rebels Are Forcing 'Grim Battles,'" The New York Times, April 1, 1988.

Main Point

President Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia finally acknowledges that the Government forces have been fighting "grim battles" against rebel forces in the provinces of Eritrea and Tigre.

Mr. Mengistu calls the intensifying war "a new challenge to the sovereignty of Ethiopia." This rare announcement comes after a virtual period of silence on the fighting between the Ethiopian army and the opposing forces. Both provinces have conducted major attacks against the Soviet-backed government and there is a continued growing opposition. The President reports that communication networks and other basic services have been disrupted and trucks, including those with relief aid, have been burned.

Drought conditions have persisted throughout the region but the war has interfered with ongoing relief efforts in both northern provinces. As many as seven million lives are threatened by the severe conditions.

The civil war has raged on the 27 years in Eritrea and 13 years in Tigre. The provinces are challenging for greater autonomy and "a more liberal form of government" than that in place by the Marxist Ethiopian Government.

"President Mengistu told party officials that the rebels had rejected a call for peace issued…by Ethiopia's Parliament." The rebel forces countered by stating the in 1980 it had proposed its own cease-fire but the Ethiopian Government had yet to respond.

Mark Cardenas