Tigray forces fighting the federal government say they have withdrawn from neighboring northern Ethiopia as a step towards a possible ceasefire after 13 months of brutal war.
In a letter to Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray’s People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls much of northern Tigray, he wrote: “We hope that our bold departure will be a decisive opening for peace.
His letter called on the United Nations to impose sanctions on Ethiopia and its ally Eritrea, and to check the withdrawal of foreign troops from Tigre.
Conflict erupted in November 2020 between the federal government and the TPLF, which had dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years, before Prime Minister Abi came to power in 2018.
Abi, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, promised a quick victory. McClellan, the capital of Tigray, was captured by his troops in late November, but by June, Tigray forces had launched a counterattack, in which they recaptured much of their territory and expanded their fighting into neighboring Amhara and Afar. In late November, the Ethiopian army launched an offensive that pushed back the advancing Tigrian forces hundreds of kilometers away.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said Tigris troops were leaving Amhara and Afar.
“We decided to retreat from these areas to Tigre. We want to open the door to humanitarian aid, “said Kedahsu.
“We are not interested in capturing the province of Afar. We are not interested in negotiating a tough deal in Addis Ababa, ”he added:“ We are only interested in ensuring that the siege imposed on our people is broken.
The decision to retreat to Tigray was made a few weeks ago, Getachew said, and later tweeted: “We have just finished withdrawing our troops from the #Amhara & #Afar areas.”
But Abby’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said the announcement would cover up the military setback.
“The TPLF has suffered huge losses in recent weeks, so it is seeking a ‘strategic retreat’ to make up for the failure,” he told AFP.
“There are still pockets in the Amhara region where they are on other fronts trying to open the conflict.”
In Africa’s second most populous country, the war has destabilized an already weak region, sent tens of thousands of refugees to Sudan, expelled Ethiopian soldiers from war – torn Somalia, and deployed troops from neighboring Eritrea.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed, about 400,000 are facing famine in Tigris, and 9.4 million people across northern Ethiopia are in need of food aid as a result of the conflict.
The head of the DPLF, Depression, said he hoped the withdrawal of Digrayan from Afar and Amhara would force the international community to ensure that food aid enters Digrai.
The UN has previously accused the government of enforcing a practical embargo – an accusation that the government has denied.
“It simply came to our notice then [us] If it backs down, the international community will do something about the situation in Tigris because they can no longer use the fact that our forces are invading Amhara and Afar as an excuse, ”Ketasu told Reuters.
Other proposals in the letter include the release of political prisoners – thousands of detainees have been detained by the government – and the use of international investigators to pursue those responsible for war crimes.
Last week, the UN agreed to set up an independent inquiry into human rights abuses in Ethiopia – a move strongly opposed by the Ethiopian government.
International mediators, including the African Union and the United States, have repeatedly tried to get a ceasefire between the two sides and allow aid into the Tigris, but both sides refused until certain conditions were met.
The United States said Monday that the Tigris’ retreat to their northern stronghold would “open the door to broader diplomacy.”
“If we see Tigris troops moving back to Tigris, we welcome it,” said State Department spokesman Nate Price. “This is something we call it, and we hope it opens the door to broader diplomacy.”
Dekloy Zebramikel, an Ethiopian writer who has been documenting the fighting, told Al Jazeera that the Tigran forces were “stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
“The international community has been putting a lot of pressure on the Ethiopian government to provide assistance to the outgoing Tigrian forces in the Afar and Amhara areas, in order to convince the Ethiopian government.
Dekloy said that based on the possibility of another invasion, there was no possibility of disarmament even if the Tigrian forces retreated to Tigray.
“They know that disarmament will mean the next day the Ethiopian and Eritrean government will invade Tigre, and they will visit the devastation that the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces suffered when they were in Tigre last year. To do so. “