Ethiopian troops lose control of capital Tigray – immediate ceasefire declared

After months of fighting in the insurgent region of Tigray, the Ethiopian government announced an immediate ceasefire tonight. The announcement comes after rebels recaptured Mek’ele, the capital of the northern region, from the interim government. He then called for a ceasefire.

Fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) entered Mek’ele today as government officials fled. Witnesses report people celebrating in town. “Everyone is dancing outside.”

Fighters of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front).
©AP – Fighters of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front)

The Ethiopian government said the ceasefire should allow farmers in Tigray to cultivate their fields. Moreover, in this way, the humanitarian organizations can also provide aid unhindered, it sounds like. The truce would initially last until the end of the harvest season.

Ethiopian armed forces have controlled the northern region’s capital since late November. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said at the time that the time for humanitarian aid and reconstruction had arrived, and the handling of the TPLF “clique” would be a matter for the police. Meanwhile, the conflict raged on.

Mek’ele, the actual power base of the TPLF, is located about 500 kilometers north of the capital Addis Ababa of federal Ethiopia. The Tigrayers make up about 6 percent of the population but dominated the country for 27 years with their TPLF, a former guerrilla movement that helped overthrow the communist dictatorship in 1991.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for resolving border conflicts with neighboring Eritrea, belongs to the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, who make up nearly 35 percent of the population of more than 100 million.

In August last year, a fight broke out between the government and the TPLF over elections. In early November, a federal army base in Mek’ele was attacked, but Addis Ababa regained control of the regional capital later that month.

Since then, thousands of people have died. Soldiers from Eritrea who came to the aid of Ethiopian troops also made many victims. According to the UN, 350,000 people are facing famine as a result of the conflict. Most of Tigray’s 5.5 million residents are in need of food aid.

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