Ethiopia’s federal government declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in the Tigray region, as the region’s armed movement took control of the regional capital Mekelle, sparking celebrations on the streets.
The armed movement, Tigray Defence Force (TDF) took control of Mekele as the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF) withdrew after almost eight months of fighting.
The Tigray conflict which has been ongoing since November 2020, has killed thousands, displaced more than 2 million, and pushed the region toward famine.
A spokesman for the regional government led by Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Getachew Reda, told CNN that TDF had “broken the backbone of the Ethiopian army” after fighting nine divisions to take the capital.
“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.
A press statement by the TPLF-led government on the Facebook page of the party-affiliated Tigrai Media House said that “We reiterate our commitment that Tigray will be the graveyard of invading forces.”
The ceasefire was welcomed by the UK and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
Guterres said he had spoken with Ethiopia’s 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.
While the UK embassy in Ethiopia tweeted: “We welcome the Government of Ethiopia’s announcement of a unilateral humanitarian ceasefire in Tigray. We urge all parties to recognise this important development, to cease hostilities and allow the urgent delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid.”
Reuters reported that Mekelle residents celebrated as TDF surrounded the Martyrs’ Memorial Monument and that fireworks lit up the city’s sky.
Meanwhile, UNICEF accused Ethiopian government troops of dismantling satellite equipment in the organization’s office in Mekelle on Monday.
“This act violates UN privileges and immunities and the rules of International Humanitarian Law regarding respect for humanitarian relief objects,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.
Last week, an airstrike hit a busy market in the northern Tigray region village of Togoga and killed at least 51 people, according to health workers, who added that soldiers blocked medical teams from travelling to the scene.
An official with Tigray’s health bureau told the Associated Press (AP) that over 100 others were wounded, more than 50 seriously, and at least 33 people were still missing.