NAROBI, Kenya ( Associated Press) — Ethiopia’s government has announced that its forces will not advance into the Tigre region.
Ethiopian forces have been ordered to retain areas won back from the Tigre People’s Liberation Force, but not to move further into the Tigre region, Legacy Tulu, the government communications service chief, said on Thursday.
The Ethiopian federal army and its allies have made strong progress in recent weeks, capturing major towns and cities in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions that Tigre fighters seized earlier this year. The Tiger forces have been forced to return to their home territory.
“Operation in the first phase to drive out the terrorist group from those areas has ended with victory. At this point the will and ability of the enemy (to engage in combat) is seriously destroyed,” Legacy said.
“The government will take more steps to ensure that the desire of (Tigre Force) does not arise again in future. For now, Ethiopian forces have been ordered to retain the areas it has controlled,” he said.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s announcement that his troops would not pursue Tigre forces in his home region could be an opening that encourages a ceasefire and dialogue to resolve the conflict.
Earlier this week the leader of Tigre forces said his fighters had been ordered to return to Tigre.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Debrection Gebremichael said, “I have ordered units of the Tigre army that are outside the borders of the Tigre, to return to the borders of the Tigre with immediate effect.” Debrection proposed an immediate ceasefire after negotiations.
He also proposed the establishment of a no-fly zone on the Tigre to prevent airstrikes on the region and an international arms embargo on Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Tens of thousands have been killed in the November 2020 Tigre conflict between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the country’s Tigre region, which dominated the national government before Abiy became prime minister in 2018.
According to aid groups, some of the six million people in Tigre have started starving as a result of the month-long government blockade. Thousands of ethnic tigresses have been detained or forcibly expelled in an atmosphere filled with fiery speeches against tigers by some senior Ethiopian officials. Concerned human rights groups have warned that some of the anti-Tigrayan rhetoric is hate speech.
Last month, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency as Tigre fighters moved closer to the capital, Addis Ababa, and, according to accounts from local residents, unleashed several abuses against ethnic Amhara. Tigre forces say they are fighting to lift the blockade on their people.
William Davison of the International Crisis Group said that the Ethiopian government’s military has been strengthened by aerial drones purchased from China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
“The Tigre army appears to be in a vulnerable position after leaving all the areas it controlled,” he said.