In Ethiopia, Tigray rebels announce withdrawal from Amhara and Afar regions

The Ethiopian rebels from Tigray, who had advanced in recent months in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, are in the process of withdrawing in order to” to open the door “ humanitarian aid, their spokesperson told AFP on Monday, December 20. This announcement opens a new phase in this deadly conflict which has pitted pro-government forces against Tigrayan rebels for more than a year and has triggered a deep humanitarian crisis.

“We have decided to withdraw from these areas towards Tigray”, said Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Until now, the TPLF qualified as“Absolutely not possible” the withdrawal from these two regions, demanded by the government as a prerequisite for negotiations. For their part, the rebels demanded that the federal authorities put an end to the ” seat “ humanitarian aid from Tigray.

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“We are conducting withdrawals phase by phase. We started to withdraw our forces a few weeks ago, we are announcing it now ”, explained Mr. Getachew, saying in particular that the rebels have ” quits “ Lalibela. This city classified by Unesco as a world heritage site, famous for its rock-cut churches dating from the 12th centurye and XIIIe centuries, has changed hands several times, as have other localities.

Since the end of October, the two parties have each claimed major territorial advances, but communications have been cut in the combat zones and journalists’ access is restricted, making any independent verification of positions on the ground difficult. For a while, the rebels claimed to be about 200 km from the capital, Addis Ababa. At the end of November, the state media announced the arrival on the front line of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to lead a “Counter-offensive”. The government then claimed several victories.

More than 2 million displaced

War erupted in November 2020 after Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to the northern region of Tigray in order to remove the local authorities, from the TPLF, who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked. military bases. Abiy Ahmed proclaimed victory three weeks later, after the capture of the regional capital, Makalé. But in June, the TPLF retook most of Tigray, then advanced into the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

The conflict has left several thousand dead, more than 2 million displaced and plunged hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into conditions bordering on famine, according to the UN. The organization suspended humanitarian flights between Addis Ababa and Makale in October, where the government was carrying out airstrikes. Flights resumed in November. Fears of a rebel march on the capital have prompted several countries – including the United States, France and the United Kingdom – to ask their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible.

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On Friday, the UN gave the green light to an international mechanism to investigate the abuses committed in Ethiopia. The intense diplomatic efforts led in particular by the African Union (AU) to try to reach a ceasefire have so far not allowed any decisive progress.

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The World with AFP

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In Ethiopia, Tigray rebels announce withdrawal from Amhara and Afar regions