The Financial Express

Ethiopia declares ceasefire in Tigray region as rebels take control of capital

| Updated: July 10, 2021 17:10:07

The conflict has pushed Tigray into a deep humanitarian crisis - Reuters photo The conflict has pushed Tigray into a deep humanitarian crisis - Reuters photo

Ethiopia's government has declared a ceasefire in its war-torn Tigray region, as rebel fighters claim control of the regional capital Mekelle.

Residents reported scenes of jubilation with thousands of people in the streets waving flags and setting off fireworks.

The Ethiopian government has not confirmed the loss of the city, nearly eight months after its forces ousted the Tigrayan rebels.

The conflict has pushed the region into a deep humanitarian crisis, reports the BBC.

More than five million people are in urgent need of food aid, the United Nations says, with 350,000 facing famine.

Ethiopia's government launched an offensive to oust the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), last November.

The party had had a massive fallout with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over political changes to the country's ethnically based federal system, though the TPLF's capture of military bases in Tigray was the catalyst for the invasion.

All sides have been accused of carrying out mass killings and human rights violations, while thousands of people have been killed.

Monday's events followed reports of an escalation in fighting between the TPLF and government forces outside Mekelle. Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesperson, later told Reuters news agency the city was now under their control.

Two eyewitnesses told Reuters Tigrayan soldiers were seen in Mekelle.

Residents told the BBC they were celebrating the federal troops' departure.

Ethiopia's government is yet to comment on reports that its troops have been pulled out. But in a statement on state TV, it said the ceasefire would "stay until the farming season ends" to allow aid to reach those in need and give space to find a political solution.

The TPLF has not commented on the ceasefire.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he had spoken with the Ethiopian prime minister, and was "hopeful" that a ceasefire would take place. "It is essential that civilians are protected, humanitarian aid reach the people in need and a political solution is found," he said in a statement.

The UK, the US and Ireland have called for an emergency UN Security Council public meeting.

Mr Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, declared that the conflict was over at the end of November, but fighting has continued.

Tens of thousands of people have sought refuge in neighbouring Sudan.

The TPLF has since joined forces with other groups in Tigray to form the Tigray Defence Forces.

Earlier this month, the UN described a situation of famine in northern Ethiopia. It said the food situation had reached the level of a "catastrophe", which it defines as starvation and death affecting small groups of people spread over large areas.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Organization and children's agency Unicef have all called for urgent action to address the crisis.

But the analysis was not endorsed by Ethiopia's government, which has denied that there is a famine in the country.

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