Ethiopia’s government on Thursday declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately,” saying it hoped to help hasten delivery of emergency aid into the Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.
Since war broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, thousands have died, and many more have been forced to flee their homes as the conflict has expanded from Tigray to the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government “is committed to exert maximum effort to facilitate the free flow of emergency humanitarian aid into the Tigray region,” it said in a statement.
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“To optimize the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighboring regions,” it said.
“The government of Ethiopia hopes that this truce will substantially improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in the northern Ethiopia without further bloodshed.”
The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party, saying the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
Fighting has dragged on for over a year, triggering a humanitarian crisis, as accounts have emerged of mass rapes and massacres, with both sides accused of human rights violations.
Tigray itself has been subject to what the UN says is a de-facto blockade.
The United States has accused Abiy’s government of preventing aid from reaching those in need, while the authorities in turn have blamed the rebels for the obstruction.
Nearly 40 percent of the people in Tigray, a region of six million people, face “an extreme lack of food,” the UN said in January.
Meanwhile, humanitarian organizations have been forced to increasingly curtail their activities because of fuel and supply shortages.
The government previously declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in Tigray in June last year, after the TPLF retook the region from federal forces. But fighting intensified in the second half of 2021 before reaching a stalemate.