Ethiopia: Tigrayan fighters agree to ‘cessation of hostilities’

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front has agreed to the government’s call for a humanitarian truce, 16 months after the start of the civil war.

Tigrayan rebels have agreed to a “cessation of hostilities”, a turning point in the nearly 17-month war in northern Ethiopia following the government’s announcement of an indefinite humanitarian truce a day earlier.

In a statement sent to AFP early on Friday, the rebels said that they were “committed to implementing a cessation of hostilities effective immediately,” and urged Ethiopian authorities to hasten the delivery of emergency aid into Tigray, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.

Since war broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, thousands of people have died, and millions remain displaced as the conflict has expanded from Tigray to the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government declared a surprise truce, saying it hoped the move would ease humanitarian access to Tigray and “pave the way for the resolution of the conflict” in northern Ethiopia.

It called on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to “desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring regions”.

The rebels in turn urged “the Ethiopian authorities to go beyond empty promises and take concrete steps to facilitate unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray”.

The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, the region’s former ruling party, saying the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

Fighting has dragged on for more than a year, triggering a humanitarian crisis, as accounts have emerged of mass rapes and massacres, with both sides accused of human rights violations.

More than 400,000 people have been displaced in Tigray, according to the United Nations. The region has also been subject to what the UN says is a de facto blockade.

A third of the people in Tigray, a region of six million people, face “an extreme lack of food”, the UN said in January, with fuel shortages forcing aid workers to deliver medicines and other crucial supplies by foot.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, also told reporters on Thursday that Guterres “hopes that this truce will translate into an effective cessation of hostilities, respected by all parties in this conflict, to allow for effective humanitarian access for all who need it”.