EthiopiaTigray rebels ‘ready to respect’ a ceasefire
After several days of offensive in the northwest, the African Union called for an “immediate and unconditional” end to the fighting on Sunday.
The African Union (AU) on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire in Tigraywith violence escalating, with rebels in this region of northern Ethiopia saying they are “ready to respect it”.
More civilian casualties
The town of Shire in northwestern Tigray was shelled for several days during a joint offensive by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops against the Tigrean rebels which caused several civilian casualties. A member of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a disaster relief NGO, was killed and another wounded in one such attack on Friday, which killed two other civilians, according to the IRC.
After the Secretary General by ONU, António Guterres, expressing concern over the worsening violence, called on AU Commission President Moussa Faki Mahamat for “an immediate and unconditional ceasefire”. “The President urges the parties to reiterate their commitment to dialogue in line with their agreement on direct talks to be convened in South Africa,” he added in a statement.
In response, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels said they were “ready to respect” such a break in fighting. “We are prepared to respect an immediate cessation of hostilities. We call too the international community to force the Eritrean army to withdraw from Tigray, to take steps for an immediate cessation of hostilities and to pressure the Ethiopian government to come to the negotiating table,” the TPLF said.
Postponement of negotiations
Shortly before, the US department’s Africa office had assessed on Twitter that the “priority” was to “achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities”. The ball is now in the court of the Ethiopian government, which, contacted by AFP, declined to immediately comment. This government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigrayan authorities had accepted an invitation from the AU to discuss, but the talks that were supposed to begin last weekend in South Africa did not take place.
Diplomats have suggested that logistical problems were partly behind their delay. The latest fighting came as US special envoy Mike Hammer arrived in Addis Ababa to press for an end to the nearly two-year-old war. The town of Shire, about 40km south of Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, has been “under sustained airstrikes and heavy artillery all this week”, an aid worker there told AFP.
The confrontations resumed in August in Tigray after a five-month hiatus, dashing hopes of resolving a conflict that has killed countless civilians and reduced the need for humanitarian aid. The conflict erupted in November 2020 when Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed sent troops against the TPLF, the ruling party in Tigray, which he accuses of organizing attacks on military camps. The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for decades before Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.