The struggle and lack of food amid hopes for a ceasefire in Ethiopia

Shortly after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front marched Ethiopian federal prisoners of war through the streets of Mekelle this weekend, it called on all sympathetic troops of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to withdraw from the province before agreeing to a ceasefire. fire.

It was only the latest sign that the unilateral ceasefire of Abiy, which the TPLF called a “joke”, could be ineffective in planting lots that have killed thousands, displaced 1.7 m and sunk over 400,000 people like famine conditions.

The Ethiopian government had urged Tigrayan rebels to adhere to the June 28 ceasefire, which aims to help aid agencies reach hundreds of thousands of people with relief supplies. The call for a ceasefire was made as was TPLF picked up Mekelle, the regional capital, a week ago.

The TPLF demands that Addis Ababa withdraw from all its troops and allies from the northern region. He also called for an independent inquiry into alleged atrocities by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, and the reinstatement of the TPLF government in Tigray.

Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, is accused of pursuing one conflict which has unleashed rape, massacre and alleged ethnic cleansing, and led Washington to impose sanctions on a number of Ethiopian officials.

“We are determined and we must shed blood to ensure our survival as people,” the TPLF said, adding that Abiy Ahmed’s “fascist clique is, true to form, trying to deceive the international community into thinking that it is a peace officer. ”

Addis Ababa has repeatedly claimed victory in a war that Abiy once declared would take only weeks, but lasted eight months and drew to nearby Eritrea. It took 10 days for the TPLF to regain control of Mekelle by Ethiopian forces, who took it last November.

Many have questioned the ceasefire as a strategy that will allow Abiy to reunite and rearm his forces. “This cessation of the federal government’s‘ humanitarian ’fire does not seem sincere,” said William Davison, senior analyst at Ethiopia’s Crisis Group.

“It simply came to our notice then. . . increase, given the blatant federal obstacle to humanitarian operations. . . an upward TDF will not passively allow the federal government to try to restrict the region again. ”

Ethiopian federal soldiers march towards Mekelle after being taken prisoner by Tigray Defense Forces © Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP / Getty

Addis Ababa has in fact accorded the region. According to the UN, Tigray is now suffering from a blackout in telecommunications and electricity and a shortage of liquidity and fuel that will “only aggravate the already dire humanitarian situation”.

Mekelle’s takeover of the TPLF and Addis Ababa’s position also lead to what the U.S. and EU state departments have called the necessary conditions for an effective ceasefire.

U US he said the ceasefire “could be a positive step if it would result in changes in ground to end the conflict, stop atrocities, and allow unhindered humanitarian assistance.” The EU has stressed that “to be credible, it must materialize quickly and be accompanied by additional efforts by all parties to end the conflict.”

But on Wednesday, Ethiopia’s lieutenant general, Bacha Debele, warned: “Yes [the rebels] provoke us, we can return to Mekelle today. ”In a sign that fighting continues, two bridges have been blown up since the ceasefire, further preventing aid. Each side has accused the other of responsibility.

The TPLF has vowed to rid Tigray of all Ethiopian federal soldiers and allied fighters in Amhara and Eritrea – and, if necessary, march on Eritrea’s capital, Asmara. Before accepting a ceasefire, the TPLF also wants both Abiy and Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki to be held accountable for crimes allegedly committed against the Tigraans.

TPLF officials claim to have more than 9,000 Ethiopian prisoners of war and say their priority is to push all opposing forces out of western Tigray so they can establish a supply corridor with neighboring Sudan. They say they have up to 30,000 troops waiting here to join the fight.

“Militarily, there is no problem taking the western Tigray,” a TPLF official told the Financial Times. “The goal now is to try to open the corridor with Sudan.”

Sudanese officials have said their country has no interest in participating in a war in Ethiopia. However, there have been clashes between Sudanese and Ethiopian forces on agricultural land at the border since the end of last year.

Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa have also been strained since giant dam that Ethiopia has built on the Nile, which Sudan fears could give Ethiopia control of vital river water supplies.

The Tigraans have a long history of struggle: first in a 1940 rebellion against Emperor Haile Selassie, then in a guerrilla war against the Derg regime that led the Tigraans to rule the Ethiopia since 1991 after marching on Addis Ababa.

Today, some members of the TPLF say the conflict, which began last November after Abiy sent troops in response to alleged attacks on federal forces, turns into a struggle for Tigrayan’s independence from Ethiopia.

“The war has not stopped,” one said. “Maybe the gun barrel is stopped – for now, and in some areas.”

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