The rebel authorities in Tigray have said they accept “A cease-fire in principle”, Sunday, July 4, in this region of northern Ethiopia over which they have largely regained control, while laying down conditions that make a formal agreement difficult with the government. These conditions include the withdrawal of the Eritrean and Amhara forces, which support the Ethiopian army in the military operation it has been carrying out for eight months against the former regional government, and the restoration of these authorities considered to be dissident by Addis Ababa. .
Tigray has been the scene of fighting since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army in early November 2020 to overthrow the local government, which emerged from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner accused these leaders of orchestrating attacks on military bases.
The pro-TPLF forces (Tigray Defense Forces, TDF) recaptured the regional capital, Makalé, on June 28. The federal government has decreed a “Unilateral cease-fire”. But the TDF continued to advance and regained control of much of Tigrayan territory, with the exception of areas in the west and south of the region annexed by forces of regional authorities neighboring Amhara. Many countries and the UN have called for respect for the ceasefire, in particular in order to be able to deliver humanitarian aid to the population.
“Provided that we have a rock-solid guarantee that the security of our people will not be compromised by a second round of invasions, we accept a ceasefire in principle”, affirmed Sunday a press release signed “Government of Tigray”. “However, before a ceasefire agreement is formalized, the following thorny issues must be resolved”, continues the text, before listing conditions.
The first is the return of « forces d’invasion » Eritrean and Amhara “To their pre-war territories”. Eritrea, bordering Tigray in the north, intervened from the first months of the conflict. The Asmara regime has been the sworn enemy of the TPLF since a bloody border war between it and Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000, when the TPLF was in power in Addis Ababa. Its army is accused of atrocities against Tigrayan civilians (summary executions, rapes…), and the United States and the European Union have repeatedly called for their departure. This week, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Eritreans have largely “Withdrawn from Tigray”, moving towards their border.
The forces of Amhara, an Ethiopian region bordering southern Tigray, have taken advantage of the conflict to annex fertile areas in western Tigray. The Amhara believe that the TPLF seized it illegally in the early 1990s.
The press release also calls for the resumption of activities “Of the democratically elected government of Tigray, with all its powers and constitutional responsibilities”. Hunted for months, the leaders of the TPLF, including the strongman of the region, Debretsion Gebremichael, have returned to Makalé.
The federal government did not immediately respond to AFP’s requests. But the power in Addis Ababa has always rejected any dialogue with the leaders of the TPLF, classified as a terrorist organization by Parliament in May.
Ethiopian leaders said in a closed-door meeting with diplomats on Friday that the government was preparing for a “Inclusive dialogue to resolve the Tigray crisis”, while repeating that it would not be done with the leaders of the TPLF. Addis Ababa wants to see them ” accountable “, car “The actions of the TPLF must be condemned”, they said, according to three participants in this meeting.
The rebel authorities are asking for their part “Procedures so that Abiy Ahmed and Issaias Aferworki [le président érythréen] accountable [sur] the damage they caused ”. They also want the UN to create a “Independent investigative body” on the “Horrible crimes” committed against civilians during the conflict. They also reaffirmed their “Unreserved support to those who engage in the delivery of humanitarian aid”, saying they were ready to guarantee and ensure their safety.
The humanitarian situation in Tigray is alarming. According to the UN, more than 400,000 people have “Crossed the threshold of famine” in the region and an additional 1.8 million people “Are on the verge of famine”. Electricity and telecommunications are cut, flights suspended and two crucial bridges for delivering aid were destroyed this week. Accused of wanting to prevent humanitarian aid from reaching the region, the Ethiopian government has denied any responsibility.