March 3, 2024

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Ethiopian govt declares humanitarian truce to resolve Tigray conflict

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The Ethiopian government has announced a humanitarian truce to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to people in Tigray. The government’s Communications Ministry issued a statement in this regard an hour ago.

This is the 3rd ceasefire announcement by the Ethiopian government since the start of Tigray conflict in November 2020. In June 2021, the government announced a unilateral ceasefire, and federal, regional forces withdrew from the Tigray region. Then in December last year, government forces suspended military operations and decided not to enter Tigray.

The earlier two ceasefires were rejected by Tigray regional government. Tigray government had said that it would keep on fighting until the siege on Tigray is lifted.

The statement released today says that the decision was taken due to the dire humanitarian situation in the Tigray region.

Since the start of Tigray conflict, the region has been under a blockade. Very little aid entered the region since December last year. Aid agencies estimate that more than 5 million are in need of aid in the region.

“Currently thousands from the Tigray region are trekking into neighboring regions in search of assistance. While it is heartening to see the fraternal bond and solidarity that is being demonstrated by communities that are receiving and helping those in need of assistance, the Government believes that the situation warrants urgent measures to ensure that those in need are able to receive aid in their localities”, the statement says.

The government has urged the international donor community to redouble their contributions to facilitate the delivery of aid to the people in Tigray.

World Food Program (WFP), two days ago, said around 15 million people affected by war and drought are in urgent need of food aid. While aid agencies are looking after millions being displaced from Ukraine into the neighboring countries, it would be a challenge to provide 15 million people in Ethiopia with food.

At the end of the statement, the Ethiopian government urges Tigray forces to vacate areas under their control in neighboring regions. “To optimize the success of the humanitarian truce, the Government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighboring regions”, states the government.

Though in December last year, after suffering military setbacks, Tigray forces withdrew from most areas in the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions, they are not fully out of the two neighboring regions.

In Afar region, Tigray forces are in Abala, Megale, Berhale and Konneba woredas. At the end of January this year, Tigray forces entered 5 woredas of the neighboring Afar region. Back then Tigray government said that its forces had no intention of occupying Afar land and they merely entered Afar to push back Afar fighters who, allegedly backed by Eritrean forces, were involved in border incursions into Tigray from Afar.

While Tigray forces could start withdrawing from Afar, their withdrawal from the neighboring Amhara region could prove to be difficult.

Tigray forces are mainly in control of some areas in Wag Himora and North Gondar zones of the Amhara region. Amhara forces backed by the Eritrean and Ethiopian army are deployed to Western Tigray (Himora, Welkait, and Tsegede). Western Tigray has been a disputed territory between the Amhara and Tigray regions for years. Amhara forces took control of these areas after the start of the war in November 2020.

The strategic area shares a border with Sudan. Tigray forces have been trying to take back this area to open a corridor with Sudan but the attempts remained unsuccessful.

Will Tigray forces withdraw from the neighboring Amhara region while Amhara regional forces are in control of disputed western Tigray?

The announcement of a humanitarian ceasefire is the first step in the right direction. But several thorny issues need to be settled before lasting peace in Tigray can return.

The US has been gradually increasing its pressure upon the Ethiopian government for a peaceful solution in recent days. Two bills proposing sanctions on the Ethiopian government, HR-6600 and S. 3199 are pending with the US House of Representatives and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations respectively. Read more…

David Satterfield, US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, African Union’s mediator to resolve Tigray conflict, and Benkole Adeoye African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security have been in Ethiopia for the last three days.

Joint efforts of local, regional, and international players led to this first breakthrough towards the resolution of the deadly Ethiopian conflict which has cost tens of thousands of lives so far.