Days after the Eritrean forces entered Tigré, Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reported this Friday that Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its troops from the region where armed conflict has been taking place in recent months.
“On March 26, 2021, in discussion with President Isaias Afwerki during the visit to Amhara, the Eritrean government agreed to withdraw its armed forces from the Ethiopian border,” Ahmed said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The Prime Minister said that “the Ethiopian National Defense Force will immediately guarantee surveillance in border areas,” adding that it is important to “restore trusting relations between the citizens of the Tigris region and the Eritreans along the border”.
The declaration comes days after Abiy Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for starting the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea and recognized the presence of Eritrean soldiers in support of Addis Adeba in a conflict that began in November between Tiger leaders and the Ethiopian government and troops Thousands and displaced people killed.
The split between the two sides worsened when the federal government postponed the parliamentary elections in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Angrily, the Tigré People’s Liberation Front (FLPT), the regional and ethnic party of Tigré, organized their own elections and began to view the Prime Minister as illegitimate. Addis Adeba did not recognize the elections and sent military personnel to the north of the country after alleged attacks on military bases.
But the tension was already there and in a latent state. Tigers controlled the country’s fate between 1991 and 2018 when Ahmed came to power. From the various reforms he carried out, he removed many FLPT cadres from important places of power and motivated the formation of militias and paramilitary forces in the Tigré region.
Thousands of dead and displaced people
The armed conflict has caused thousands of deaths – the official number is unknown – and at least 43,000 Ethiopians have fled to Sudan. There have been several reports of deaths, torture and mass rape by Eritrean forces.
According to an investigation by Amnesty International, Eritrean troops “have rioted and systematically killed hundreds of citizens in cold blood”.
Those who have fled are at risk of extreme hunger and homelessness, and although humanitarian aid has reached the population, aid is not enough: many people remain at risk of starvation.
A source for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced this Friday that around 95,000 Ethiopians have been displaced in the Shiraro district, in addition to the approximately 20,000 Eritrean refugees who have been living in refugee camps in Tigre and have disappeared.
The Eritrean refugee camps, where the people of Eritrea took refuge in decades of violence in the country, have been “completely destroyed” and refugees will be scattered across the country, according to UNHCR.
At the beginning of March, at the request of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, requested the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
According to an Al Jazeera reporter, journalists and human rights organizations have only now had access to the region. “Those responsible in Ethiopia say they are investigating human rights violations,” he concluded.