In Ethiopia, the federal government declared a « unilateral and unconditional ceasefire » in Tigray on Monday evening after nearly eight months of conflict. The decision follows the debacle of the federal forces who had to retreat in the face of the advance of TPLF troops who triumphantly returned to Mekele, the regional capital, today.
« In order for farmers to be able to cultivate peacefully, for humanitarian aid to be distributed without any military activity, for the residual TPLF forces to return to the path of peace (…), a unilateral and unconditional ceasefire has been decreed as of today, 28 June, until the end of the cultivation season. This is the announcement made on Monday evening by the Ethiopian federal government, which has been overwhelmed by the turn of events in Tigray province over the past few days.
While under the aegis of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, an offensive was launched against Tigray led by the TPLF, Mekele, the capital of the northernmost region of Ethiopia, fell after three weeks of fighting in the hands of government forces, forcing the leaders of this region to go underground. From the bush, the TPLF leaders promised the federal government that they would never lay down their arms until they regained control of their region. In fact, in the last few days, the pro-TPLF forces, who now call themselves the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF), have launched a counter-offensive that culminated in the recapture of the capital on Monday.
A triumphant entry of pro-TPLF forces into Mekele
The armed elements of the TPLF « took control of the city (Mekele, editor’s note), I saw them myself, they entered, » told AFP, on condition of anonymity, a member of the interim administration set up by the Addis Ababa authorities after the departure of former officials from the TPLF. According to AFP, the TPLF troops entered Mekele in trucks and cars. They were met by jubilant crowds, with people coming out into the streets, holding Tigrayan flags, to greet them and show their joy at the turnaround. The soldiers, in turn, fired several shots in the air as a sign of triumph.
« The town is celebrating, everyone is out dancing, » confirmed the member of the interim administration reported above. « Everyone is excited, there is music in the streets. Everyone has their flags out and the music is playing. I don’t know how they got them, but everyone has fireworks, » said a resident who also spoke to AFP.
A real slap in the face for Abiy Ahmed
Faced with this return in force of the TPLF, the administration set up in the region by Addis Ababa emptied the premises on Monday, according to the member of the administration. « Everyone has left, the last ones left in the afternoon, […] the region has no government, » he said. Soldiers and federal officers in Mekele are also reported to have fled, looting banks and commandeering private vehicles in the process.
This unilateral and unconditional ceasefire proclaimed by the Addis Ababa regime appears to be a real slap in the face for Abiy Ahmed who, in November 2020, had announced a rapid operation to sweep away the Tigray authorities, after Tigrayan forces attacked, according to the Prime Minister, federal army bases. Nearly eight months later, the country is mired in a never-ending conflict, aggravated by abuses committed against civilians and a famine affecting at least 350,000 people, according to the UN. Worse, the victorious return of the Tigrayan forces alone against the federal troops supported by elements from the Amhara region and the Eritrean army is a sign of a bitter failure for the Addis Ababa regime, confirming that the fears expressed about the balance of power on the eve of the conflict were well founded.