In a turnaround in the civil war that has raged for eight months in Tigris, Ethiopia, fighters in the region announced on Monday (28) the resumption of control of the capital, Mekele, while the central government withdrew its troops and declared a ceasefire. unilateral fire immediately triggered.
The move is a radical departure from a conflict that began in November, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali launched a military offensive against the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Tiger (FLPT), the nationalist party that rules the region. He justified the measure by accusing opposing troops of attacking a government military base to steal weapons and other equipment.
Behind the argument actually lurks historic ethnic conflicts in the country, as the current prime minister – the first of the Omora ethnic group to take power – has been accused of persecuting the Tigrins, who ruled Ethiopia for three years. decades. Abiy took office in 2018 with the speech of privileging national feeling to the detriment of divisions, something thwarted with the conflict of the Tiger.
Since then, the province has been the scene of a series of armed clashes which, according to UN (United Nations) estimates, have already led 350,000 people to the brink of hunger and millions to flee their homes to other countries, notably Sudan.
“This unilateral ceasefire declaration begins today, June 28, 2021, and will remain [em vigor] until the end of the growing season [setembro]The government said in a statement released Monday, according to which the decision was at the request of the interim administration in power until the capital was taken over by the FLPT.
The Reuters news agency could not determine whether the suspension of hostilities had been discussed with the Tigrins. In a post on the Facebook page of Tigre Media House, affiliated with the Liberation Front, Liya Kassa, one of the party’s spokespersons, said they would fight “until the enemies leave”.
Describing scenes of celebration on the streets, residents of the capital said they saw rebel troops in the city for the first time since the central government was expelled. They also reported that official forces packed their belongings and left their bases on Monday morning.
A few hours later, the senior official of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), Henrietta Fore, accused the national army of having entered the office of the organization in the capital Mekele and of having dismantled satellite equipment. Fore said the action violated the rules of international law and called on both parties to the conflict to respect the work of humanitarian agencies. “Unicef’s priority in the Tigris and Ethiopia is to help vulnerable children, including the 140,000 who are in conditions close to famine,” he said in a statement. “We are not and never should have been a target.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres of Portugal said he had spoken to Prime Minister Abiy and hoped for a definitive end to clashes in the region. “It is essential that civilians are protected, that humanitarian aid reaches the populations and that a political solution is found.
Mekele’s recapture comes after tensions in the conflict escalate. Last week, an airstrike by government forces on a market left at least 64 dead and 180 injured civilians in Togoga. The figures were released by the population and local leaders, who also accuse the Ethiopian army of preventing rescuers from accessing the area to transfer the wounded to a hospital in the capital.
Last Friday (25), three employees of the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières were murdered in Tigre while providing humanitarian aid. Between November and April alone, when conflicts escalated, the organization carried out 86,000 consultations in the region.
Monday’s announcement comes amid national elections that were held across most of the country on June 21. During the first week of September, residents of 20% of electoral districts who were unable to vote due to factors such as violence or logistical problems will participate.
The election is the first big test for Prime Minister Abiy, who will remain in office if his party, the Prosperity Party, wins a majority of the 547 seats in the National Assembly.