Tigrayan rebels have begun surrendering heavy weapons, a key point in a deal signed more than two months ago to end a deadly conflict in northern Ethiopia, a government spokesman said on Wednesday. rebel authorities.
“Tigray has handed over its heavy weapons as part of its commitment to implement the Pretoria agreement”, signed on November 2 between the Ethiopian government and the Tigrayan rebels, Getachew Reda said in a tweet.
“We hope and anticipate that this will go a long way in accelerating the full implementation of the agreement. We hope and plan!” he continued.
The peace agreement of November 2 provides in particular for the disarmament of rebel forces, the restoration of federal authority in Tigray and the reopening of access and communications to this region cut off from the world since mid-2021.
According to a document relating to the implementation of the agreement signed on November 12 in Nairobi, “the disarmament of heavy weapons (Tigerian) will be done simultaneously with the withdrawal of foreign and non-federal forces”, in particular reference to the Eritrea, a country bordering Tigray which supports the Ethiopian army in the region. Asmara did not participate in the Pretoria negotiations.
An aid worker, contacted by AFP and who requested anonymity, said that Eritrean troops were still present on Wednesday in Shire, north-west Tigray, as were forces from Amhara.
Contacted by AFP, a spokeswoman for the Ethiopian government has so far not responded.
On December 26, a delegation from the Ethiopian government, in the presence in particular of Prime Minister’s National Security Advisor Redwan Hussein and several ministers (Justice, Transport and Communications, Industry, Labour), traveled to Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region, for a first official visit in more than two years, marking a major step in the peace process.
A few days later, on December 29, the Ethiopian federal police entered Mekele, a first for 18 months, in particular to “guarantee the security of institutions”.
The fighting began in November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the army to arrest Tigray leaders who had challenged his authority for months and whom he accused of attacking federal military bases.
The precise toll of this conflict punctuated by abuses, which took place largely behind closed doors, is unknown. The International Crisis Group think tank and the NGO Amnesty International have described it as “one of the deadliest in the world”.
Since the Pretoria agreement, the fighting has stopped. The rebels claimed to have “disengaged” 65% of their fighters from the front lines.
But they denounce “atrocities” committed by the Eritrean army and the forces of the Ethiopian region of Amhara, which supported the federal army in the conflict. The Tigrayan authorities, as well as residents and aid workers who testified to AFP, accuse them of looting, rape, executions and kidnappings of civilians.
Access to Tigray being restricted, it is impossible to independently verify the situation on the ground, in particular the presence of Eritrean forces.
On the humanitarian level, despite an increase in operations, the food and medical aid delivered remains far below the enormous needs.
Mekele was connected to the national electricity grid on December 6. The national electricity company also announced on Tuesday the return of power to the entire Tigray region within two weeks.
The CBE, the main bank in the country, announced on December 19 the resumption of its operations in certain cities, and telephone communications with the region have begun to be restored.
The war has displaced more than two million Ethiopians and plunged hundreds of thousands into near-famine conditions, according to the UN.
Also according to the UN, the two years of war have made more than 13.6 million people dependent on humanitarian aid in northern Ethiopia (5.4 million in Tigray, 7 million in Amhara and 1 .2 million in Afar).
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