On June 28th, Ethiopia’s central government declared a unilateral ceasefire after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) took control of Mekelle.
The capital of the Tigray region was recaptured by the TPLF after nearly 8 months of fighting that the United Nations claims has led 350,000 people to the brink of famine.
The TPLF said it was back in control of Mekelle, and residents reported seeing troops in Tigray regional uniforms in the city for the first time since November.
“The capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is under our control,” Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the TPLF, told Reuters news agency by satellite phone on June 27th.
The statement on the “immediate, unilateral” ceasefire was carried by state media and came shortly after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government after routing TPLF forces, fled Mekelle and called for a truce to allow desperately needed aid to be delivered.
“This unilateral ceasefire declaration starts from today June 28, 2021 and will stay until the farming season ends,” a statement released by the federal government read.
Ethiopia’s main planting season lasts from May to September.
Reuters reported that the Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesperson and the military’s spokesperson did not respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment. The TPLF could not immediately be reached for comment on the ceasefire.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he had spoken to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and was “hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities will take place”.
“It is essential that civilians are protected, humanitarian aid reach the people in need and a political solution is found,” Guterres said in a statement.
The United States, Ireland and Britain have called for an emergency public UN Security Council meeting that could be held on July 2nd.
Western countries have not yet succeeded in organising a public session on Tigray, with many African countries, China, Russia and other nations deeming the crisis an internal Ethiopian affair.
Abiy ordered a ground and air military operation in Tigray in early November 2020, accusing the TPLF of orchestrating attacks on federal army camps.
The recapture of Tigray’s capital by the TLPF followed recent reports of an escalation in fighting between government troops and the TPLF outside Mekelle.
International pressure on Ethiopia spiked again after a military airstrike on a busy market in Tigray killed more than 60 people, and after Doctors Without Borders said three staffers had been murdered in a separate incident.
Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces entered our office in Mekele, #Tigray, Ethiopia today and dismantled our VSAT equipment.
— Henrietta H. Fore (@unicefchief) June 28, 2021
“This act violates UN privileges and immunities and the rules of international humanitarian law regarding respect for humanitarian relief objects. I condemn this action in the strongest terms,” UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore posted on Twitter.
UNICEF warned that at least 33,000 severely malnourished children face “imminent risk of death” without more aid reaching Tigray’s people.
Residents of Tigray, home to nearly six million people, have described massacres, widespread sexual violence and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Despite claims that the UNSC needs to discuss the situation in Ethiopia, the G7 completely disregarded it at its summit, instead focusing on China and Russia, no mention of the intense violence and the many war crimes in the Tigray region were mentioned.
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