Fighting has erupted between government forces and Tigrayan rebels in northern Ethiopia, shattering a five-month ceasefire between the warring sides.

The two have repeatedly accused each other of making no progress in negotiations to end the 21-month conflict in Africa’s second-most populous country.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) said government forces and their allies launched a massive offensive early Wednesday morning towards southern Tigray. The government accused the TPLF of striking first and said they had “destroyed the pause”.

Rival claims could not be independently verified because access to northern Ethiopia is restricted, but there are reports of fighting around southern Tigray, bordering the Amhara and Afar regions.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda told AFP: “They launched the offensive around 5am local time. We are defending our position.” He said on Twitter that the Ethiopian army and special forces and militias from neighboring Amhara had launched an offensive “against our positions on the southern front”.

Ethiopia’s air force said it shot down a plane carrying weapons for the TPLF, which had encroached on the country’s airspace via Sudan. Details of the date of the incident, the type of aircraft and how it was shot down were not given.

The March ceasefire halted fighting in a war that began in March 2020 and allowed international aid to resume to war-torn Tigray after a three-month hiatus.

In recent weeks, the Prime Minister, Abi Ahmed, the government and the TPLF have been at war of words, although both sides raised the possibility of peace talks.

The two sides disagree on who should lead the negotiations, and the TPLF insists that basic services must be restored to Tigray’s 6 million people before dialogue can begin.

Abiy’s government says any negotiations should be led by the African Union’s Horn of Africa envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, who is leading international pressure for peace, but the rebels want Kenya’s outgoing president, Uhuru Kenyatta, to mediate.

“All parties must stop the fighting before returning to a full-blown war,” said William Davison, senior analyst for Ethiopia at the International Crisis Group. He said: “This serious breach of the ceasefire agreed earlier this year demonstrates the need for both sides to hold unconditional face-to-face negotiations as soon as hostilities cease. This is a deafening warning to key international and regional actors that they must immediately ensure that peace talks actually take place. “

On Tuesday, Ethiopia’s National Defense Force issued a statement accusing the TPLF of trying to “discredit” the military by claiming government forces were advancing on their positions or firing heavy weapons at them.

The conflict has resulted in countless deaths and widespread reports of atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence.

Millions of people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray, the country’s northern region and neighboring Afar and Amhara. The United Nations World Food Program said last week that nearly half the population in Tigray is suffering from severe food shortages. “Hunger has increased, malnutrition rates have skyrocketed and the situation is set to worsen as people enter the season of starvation by this year’s harvest in October,” it said.

A March cease-fire allowed much-needed international aid convoys to resume in Tigray’s capital, Mekele, but fuel shortages made it difficult to deliver supplies.

Tigray is largely cut off from the rest of Ethiopia, without basic services such as electricity, communications and banking.

Abiy sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 to topple the TPLF after months of tension with the party that has dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said it came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

The TPLF made a comeback, recapturing Tigray and expanding into Afar and Amhara, before the war reached a stalemate.

Last Wednesday an Ethiopian government committee tasked with overseeing the negotiations called for a formal ceasefire to enable services to resume to Tigray as part of a proposal it plans to submit to the AU.

“If you can’t win, you have to sit down and talk,” Abi said on Sunday. “My advice is … let us be enough [this] war.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *