The Ethiopian government agreed to a temporary ceasefire after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front fighters captured the capital of the rebellious Tigray region. Officials and the interim government fled, while eyewitnesses reported that people celebrated in the regional capital, Mikkeli. “Everyone is dancing outside.”
The government in Addis Ababa said the rebel movement’s request for a ceasefire was immediately accepted. Tranquility should enable farmers to harvest safely and provide relief without obstacles. The harvest season ends in September.
The Ethiopian armed forces have controlled the capital of the northern region since late November. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said at the time that the time for humanitarian assistance and reconstruction had come and that dealing with the TPLF “clique” would be the prerogative of the police. Meanwhile, the conflict raged.
Mekele, the de facto power base of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, is located about 500 kilometers north of the capital, Addis Ababa, in federal Ethiopia. Tigrayans make up about six percent of the population, but for 27 years they controlled the country with the TPLF, a former guerrilla movement that helped overthrow the communist dictatorship in 1991.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for resolving border disputes with neighboring Eritrea, belongs to the largest ethnic group, the Oromo, who make up nearly 35 percent of the population of over 100 million people.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said after a phone conversation with Ahmed that he hoped the fighting would end. The Secretary-General described the situation in Tigray as extremely worrying.
In August last year, the dispute between the government and the TPLF escalated, leading to elections. A federal army base in Mekele was attacked in early November, but Addis Ababa retook control of the regional capital later that month.
Since then, thousands of people have died. Soldiers from Eritrea who came to help the Ethiopian forces also caused many casualties. According to the United Nations, 350,000 people face starvation due to the conflict. Most of Tigray’s 5.5 million people need food aid.
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