TPLF rebels recapture the capital Makelle as the Ethiopian government announce unilateral ceasefire

The TPLF rebels (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) on Monday recaptured the capital Makelle following nearly the eight months of conflict that has pushed 350,000 people to the brink of famine in the Tigray region.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF rebels), the former governing party in the region, said on Monday it was back in control of Mekelle. “The capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is under our control,” Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the TPLF, told Reuters news agency by satellite phone.

It called on the people and rebel forces “to stay vigilant, relentless and on constant alert until Tigray is fully free of all invading forces”.

Rebel spokesperson Getachew Reda suggested there was little appetite for a truce, telling CNN: “Our objectives are degrading the enemy’s fighting capabilities… We will not stop until Tigray has been cleared of any and all enemy forces. We will do whatever it takes.”

A government official confirmed to Agence France-Presse that the rebels had retaken capital Makelle.

The official said the interim government had decided to leave after rebels closed in “on every side”, adding: “Everybody has left. The last ones left in the afternoon… The region doesn’t have a government.”

On the same note, the Federal Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire in the northern Tigray region after rebel fighters retook Mekelle, the regional capital. The government said the ceasefire was meant to allow desperately needed humanitarian aid to be delivered.

The statement on the “immediate, unilateral” ceasefire carried by state media came shortly after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government, 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 late on Monday read. Ethiopia’s main planting season lasts from May to September.

Conflict broke out in the Tigray region in November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF rebels). Troops from neighboring Eritrea also entered the conflict to support the Ethiopian government.

Abiy government had ordered a ground and air military operation in Tigray accusing the TPLF of orchestrating attacks on federal army camps. The TPLF, which dominated national politics for decades until Abiy came to power in 2018, said it was the target of a “coordinated attack” by federal forces and its longtime Allie Eritrea.

Since the fighting broke out thousands have been left dead and more than 350,000 people pushed towards famine. In addition, more than two million people have been displaced.

Earlier this month, the United Nations said about 350,000 people are facing famine conditions due to “catastrophic” food shortages, with another two million “just a step away”.

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.

Amid the upheaval on Monday, the UN children’s agency said Ethiopian soldiers entered its office in Mekelle and dismantled satellite communications equipment, an act it said violated the world body’s immunity.

“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 last week warned that at least 33,000 severely malnourished children face “imminent risk of death” without more aid reaching Tigray’s people.

Also read,

UN condemns the killing of 3 MSF humanitarians in the Tigray region, Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s Tigray region hit by famine amid civil war

Southern Madagascar on the brink of acute food insecurity, WFP warns

Looming hunger crisis in Kenya, ASAL Humanitarian Network warns

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