The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front rebels (TPLF) said Tuesday they were in full control of the regional capital of Mekelle, a day after Ethiopia announced a unilateral ceasefire after several months of fighting.
In a statement, Addis Ababa said it was responding to a request by the region’s interim government which said a pause in hostilities was necessary to allow to tend their gardens and aid workers to deliver humanitarian assistance.
The United Nations has said more than 350,000 people in Tigray are living in famine conditions due to crop losses and conflict.
“The locust swarm destroyed almost all of the produce in Tigray last year. And they couldn’t collect the remaining (produce) because the force of destruction began the war. And after this comes to pass, and if they can’t cultivate and harvest this rainy season, the problem for the community will not be one to be resolved easily and the community will have problems for years to come,” said Abraham Belay, the interim governor of Tigray.
Ethiopian troops reportedly quit their positions in Mekelle ahead of the ceasefire announcement on Monday evening.
TPLF forces quickly moved into the city for the first time since they were routed out last November, witnesses told news agencies.
Appearing on Euronews World on Tuesday, Africanews journalist Ronald Kato said last Monday’s election and a string of battlefield losses could have pushed Addis Ababa to consider ceasing hostilities.
“The [election] results are not yet out but Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Prosperity Party is widely expected to win. So with this new mandate and all doubts, questions about his legitimacy dealt with, I think Abiy feels confident enough to engage the Tigrayans in any sort of talks,” Kato said.
Abiy ordered federal troops to after Tigray’s rebel leaders last November after the region’s forces attacked and killed government soldiers.
Both sides have been accused of committing atrocities.