– Addis Ababa declares a humanitarian ceasefire for Tigray
The Ethiopian government, in conflict with the rebels, has just decreed a ceasefire so that aid can reach this region. Famine threatens to hit 4.6 million people there.
The Ethiopian government on Thursday declared an “unlimited humanitarian ceasefire” in its conflict with the rebels in Tigray to allow “the free flow of humanitarian aid to those in need of assistance” in this region in the extreme north of the country, threatened with famine. The ceasefire is “effective immediately”, says Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, explaining his decision with “the need to take extraordinary measures to save lives and reduce human suffering”.
But “the promise made by the Ethiopian government can only have the desired effect of improving the humanitarian situation on the ground if the other party does the same”, he continues, urging the Tigrayan rebels to “refrain from any new act of aggression and to withdraw from the territories they occupy in the neighboring regions of Tigray. ”The Tigrayan rebels did not respond immediately.
Tigray pro-government and rebel forces have been clashing in northern Ethiopia since in November 2020, Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize winner the previous year, sent the federal army to oust the authorities from the region, led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had challenged his authority for several months.
83% of the population in “food insecurity”
Quickly defeated, the TPLF’s rebel forces then, during 2021, captured military Tigray, and the conflict has since spread to neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The nearly 17 months of conflict, marked by multiple atrocities, have caused a serious humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia, where more than nine million people need food aid, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). In Tigray, the WFP estimated in January that 4.6 million people, or 83% of the region’s nearly six million inhabitants, were in a “food insecurity” situation, while two million suffered from an “extreme food shortage”.
Since mid-February, humanitarian operations in Tigray – where more than 400,000 people have been displaced by the conflict – have been virtually interrupted by fuel and cash shortages, according to the UN. No relief convoy has been able to enter since December 15 due to fighting in the Afar region, which prevents the passage of road convoys on the only operational land route.
A first ceasefire for the growing season
The Ethiopian government had already decreed a unilateral ceasefire on June 28, when TPLF forces entered Mekele. This ceasefire ran only “until the end of the harvest season”, to allow farmers to “cultivate peacefully” and “distribute humanitarian aid”.
Fighting then resumed, with the TPLF rebels advancing in Amhara and Afar until they claimed to be 200 km from Addis Ababa, the country’s capital. They had withdrawn to Tigray in late December after a counter-offensive by the Ethiopian army, which had indicated it would not enter the region.
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