Addis Ababa, Jun 28 (EFE).- The Ethiopian government on Monday declared a unilateral ceasefire in the conflict in the northern Tigray region – where it has been conducting an armed offensive since last November – after the regional administration called for a cessation of hostilities.
In a statement read on national television, the Ethiopian government decreed the ceasefire and ordered the federal army and the regional armed forces to respect it, a reference to the forces in the neighboring region of Amhara, which have been involved in the fighting.
According to what Tigray regional officials appointed by Addis Ababa told EFE, the Ethiopian army on Monday abandoned the regional capital of Mekele after the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), including the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), took control of the city.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday said “I am hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place.”
In a brief statement, Guterres also expressed his “extreme concern” over the recent events in Tigray and added that they show once again that there is “no military solution to the crisis.”
One diplomatic source who wanted to remain anonymous told EFE that this week the Ethiopian army had established a dialogue with the embassies of the United States and the United Kingdom to ask them to host secret talks with the FPLT.
The withdrawal of federal forces from the regional capital was one of the conditions established by the Western governments contacted by Ethiopian authorities, the diplomatic source explained.
On the other hand, the executive director of Unicef, Henrietta H. Fore, on Monday on Twitter denounced the fact that members of the Ethiopian armed forces had entered her office in Mekele and “dismantled” her satellite communications equipment.
Fore said that this action violates the United Nations’ privileges and immunity along with international humanitarian law.
Before the announcement by the central government, Abraham Belay, the head of the interim Tigray government, on Monday had issued a call for a political solution to the conflict and had sent a proposal to the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
“Handling the humanitarian crisis in Tigray is the responsibility of the federal government. We cannot hope that this will come from the rebel group that is playing with the lives of the Tigray people,” the Tigray government chief said on state television.
The Tigray conflict broke out on Nov. 4, 2021, after the central government attacked the FPLT, then one of the regional governing parties, in reprisal for an alleged prior attack by Tigray forces on a federal army base.
Abiy Ahmed declared victory over the Tigray forces in late November after the federal army took Mekele, but the war continued despite calls by the international community for the cessation of hostilities.
Since the start of the conflict, which has caused horrible famine in the region, thousands of people have died, about two million have been internally displaced and at least 75,000 Ethiopians have fled to neighboring Sudan, which borders on Tigray, according to official figures.
Human rights violations have been documented in the region, including an organized strategy of sexual violence and looting against the civilian population and the infrastructure in the region, according to testimony from physicians and humanitarian organizations.