Tigrayan forces announce retreat

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021 09:00 | By
The TPLF said its withdrawal was to open the door for humanitarian aid donors to access the region. Photo/COURTESY

Addis Ababa, Tuesday

Tigrayan forces fighting the central government say they have withdrawn from neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia, a step towards a possible ceasefire after 13 months of brutal war.

“We trust that our bold act of withdrawal will be a decisive opening for peace,” wrote Debretsion Gebremichael, the head of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party controlling most of the northern region of Tigray, in a letter to the United Nations on Monday.

No-fly zone

His letter called for a no-fly zone for hostile aircraft over Tigray, imposing arms embargoes on Ethiopia and its ally Eritrea, and a UN mechanism to verify that external armed forces had withdrawn from Tigray.

The conflict erupted in November 2020 between the federal government and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly 30 years before Prime Minister Abiy came to power in 2018.

Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, promised a swift victory. His troops seized Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, in late November but by June, the Tigrayan forces had launched a counterattack that saw them retake much of their region and expand fighting into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.

At the end of November, the Ethiopian military began an offensive that pushed the advancing Tigrayan forces back hundreds of kilometres.

Troops pullout

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the TPLF, said the Tigrayan troops were pulling out of Amhara and Afar.

“We decided to withdraw from these areas to Tigray. We want to open the door to humanitarian aid,” Getachew said.

“We are not interested in taking over the province of Afar. We are not interested in squeezing a hard bargain in Addis Ababa,” he continued, adding: “We are only interested in ensuring that the siege that was ruthlessly imposed on our people is broken.”

The decision to retreat to Tigray was made a few weeks ago, Getachew said, later tweeting: “We have just completed the withdrawal of our forces from both #Amhara&#Afar regions.”

But Abiy’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said the announcement was a cover-up for military setbacks.

“The TPLF have sustained great losses over the past weeks and hence are claiming ‘strategic retreat’ to make up for defeat,” she told AFP.

“There are still pockets in the Amhara region in which they remain as well as other fronts they are attempting to open the conflict.”  - Xinhua

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