Ethiopia’s government has declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately”, saying it hoped to help hasten delivery of emergency aid into the Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.
Since war broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, thousands have died, and millions remain displaced as the conflict has expanded from Tigray to the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government “is committed to exert maximum effort to facilitate the free flow of emergency humanitarian aid into the Tigray region,” it said in a statement on Thursday.
“To optimise the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring regions,” it said.
“The government of Ethiopia hopes that this truce will substantially improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in northern Ethiopia without further bloodshed.”
A spokesman for the Tigrayan forces did not respond to a request for comment on the announcement, which followed a visit by the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, to the capital Addis Ababa this week.
The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former governing 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.
Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu told the Reuters news agency the truce was unilateral.
“This is just a government decision to protect our citizens from danger,” he said. “We hope the other side [TPLF] will do the same.”
More than 400,000 people have been displaced in the war-ravaged northern province of Tigray, according to the UN.
The region has also been subject to what the UN has said is a de facto blockade.
The United Nations humanitarian arm OCHA said no trucks have made it into Tigray since December 15, citing administrative as well as security constraints.
OCHA said the aid effort is hampered by a lack of funds, supplies and partners.
The United States has accused Abiy’s government of preventing aid from reaching those in need, while the authorities in turn have blamed the rebels for the obstruction.
Nearly 40 percent 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.
Western nations have been urging both sides to agree to a ceasefire, with the UK and Canada hailing the truce declaration.
“The UK welcomes the Government of Ethiopia’s decision to announce an indefinite humanitarian truce, and to ensure unimpeded access of aid into Tigray.
We call on Tigrayan authorities to reciprocate,” the British embassy in
Ethiopia said on Twitter.
Canada’s embassy to Ethiopia and Djibouti said on Twitter that the announcement was “welcome news, as aid is urgently needed in northern Ethiopia”.
Article Source: The Chronicle