More than half of Tigrayan rebel fighters have withdrawn from the front lines in Ethiopia, their top commander says, a month after a ceasefire was agreed to end the two-year conflict in the northern region of Tigray.
“We have accomplished 65 percent disengagement of our army,” Tadesse Wereda, commander-in-chief of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front said in a video posted on the TPLF’s Facebook page late on Saturday.
“Our army left the front lines and moved to the place prepared for them to camp,” he said. “Our forces withdrew on vehicles and on foot.”
War erupted in Tigray in November 2020. It pitted the Tigrayan forces against federal troops and their allies, which included neighbouring Eritrea and fighters from Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which borders Tigray.
The fighting has killed thousands of people, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.
In a surprise diplomatic breakthrough, however, the two sides signed a permanent cessation of hostilities in an African Union-mediated peace deal on November 2 in South Africa.
A follow-up agreement on the disarmament of TPLF fighters, humanitarian access guarantees and entry of the Ethiopian military into the Tigrayan capital, Mekele, was subsequently signed on November 12 in Kenya.
Tadesse said the TPLF was still maintaining fighters in some locations “where there is a presence of anti-peace forces”. He did not name the locations.
“Our forces are still on the ground in those places due to the problems they [‘anti-peace forces’] are creating for our people, but we have even reduced numbers of our forces in those places,” Tadesse said.
On Thursday, the federal government said a joint committee that is deciding how to disarm the TPLF had begun its work and would finalise its plan in a few days.
But even with the truce and its humanitarian access guarantees, the World Health Organization said on Friday that it still does not have unfettered access to Tigray.
Ethiopia’s allies are also looting towns, arresting and killing civilians, and relocating thousands of people from a disputed part of Tigray despite the peace pact, residents and aid workers say.