Forces loyal to the former ruling party in Ethiopia’s rebellious region of Tigray have entered the regional capital, Mekele, in the most severe blow to the government in Addis Ababa since the horrific conflict erupted in November.
“We have captured Mekele,” said a member of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, eight months after the start of a civil war that likely killed thousands, displaced millions and raised fears of famine.
“Everyone is very happy that the fighters are in control of the city,” said a Mikkeli resident, with people waving red and yellow Tigrayan flags. But they added that within a radius of about 25 kilometers around the city “there is still war”.
Calls to officials in the temporary administration in Tigray, appointed by Addis Ababa, were not answered, but eyewitnesses and reports said they had fled the capital, Tigray.
Pelin Seyoum, spokeswoman Prime Minister Abi AhmedAnd he did not comment on the Tigrayan forces’ control of Mikkeli.
But she stressed that the Ethiopian government announced on Monday an “unconditional ceasefire on humanitarian grounds.” International organizations sounded the alarm that there is Hundreds of thousands are living in famine-like conditions.
Speaking to Abiy, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday night that he hoped “there will be an effective cessation of hostilities in Tigray”.
Diplomatic and humanitarian sources said that in recent weeks, forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have recaptured the lands lost by the Ethiopian federal forces.
Getachew Reda, a senior member of the TPLF, said on Sunday that “our forces are making more and more gains,” but his claims could not be verified. On Monday, he told Reuters by satellite phone that Michele was “under our control.”
The fighting began in the Tigray region in the far north of Ethiopia In early November, after Abi sent troops to drive out the Tigray Liberation Front.
Government officials say he had no choice but to invade Tigray after forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front attacked the northern command of the federal army. Abe had promised that the operation would quickly restore law and order, but the conflict became protracted war Which raised allegations massacresThis is fueling a humanitarian crisis.
It also lured forces from neighboring Eritrea, whose capital Asmara was hit by rebel rockets, and whose powerful leader Isaias Afwerki hates the Tigray Liberation Front. The conflict terrified the international community, which awarded Abiy the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
The government in Addis Ababa had described the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the long-dominant party in Tigray, as a “criminal league”. As the main member of the four-party coalition that ran Ethiopia for nearly three decades until 2018, when Abiy took office, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front played a crucial role in national politics.
The Tigrayans have a long history of fighting Addis Ababa. They did so in the 1940s against Emperor Haile Selassie in the so-called Woyane Rebellion. Forty years later, they led a successful guerrilla war against the Marxist Derg regime, which came to power in 1991 after its advance on Addis Ababa.
Eurasia risk consultancy said in a note on Monday that the announcement of a unilateral ceasefire came after several significant military gains made by fighters loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, adding that Tigrayan fighters are “likely to join an interim agreement given that it provides an opportunity To strengthen the tide of local support and fortify its position in and around Mikkeli.”
But he cautioned that “although this opens the door to dialogue towards a more comprehensive settlement of the conflict, the discussions are likely to be difficult and protracted.”