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Five days after the capture of the regional capital Mekele by the Tigray Defense Forces, the international community warned on Friday about a dramatic humanitarian situation there. According to the UN, 5.2 million people need emergency food assistance, or 91% of the local population.
A first public meeting of the UN Security Council is due to be held on Friday, July 2, five days after Tigray’s dissident authorities recaptured Mekele – a key moment in the bloody conflict that has ravaged the region for eight months. ,
Despite the announcement on Monday evening of a “unilateral ceasefire” by the Ethiopian government, the rebels continued to advance. They have now taken a vast majority of this far northern region, causing concern in the international community. In particular, it is about the fate of hundreds of thousands of civilians who are at risk of starvation.
The United States estimates that 900,000 people are “likely already facing starvation conditions.”
According to the UN and the World Food Program (WFP), 5.2 million people, or 91% of the population of Tigray, are in need of emergency food assistance. The UN agency said Friday to have resumed aid operations after a two-day hiatus, hoping to reach 30,000 people “by the weekend”.
Access to humanitarian aid in question
On Thursday, the UN and several NGOs also confirmed the destruction of a bridge located on a crucial axis for the delivery of food aid, which increases fears of a possible “blockade”. According to the UN, the bridge was “reportedly” destroyed by Amhara forces, although the government blamed Tigray forces on Friday.
Abiy Ahmed’s government has repeatedly pledged to facilitate humanitarian access and provide aid itself. He also said Monday that the ceasefire was motivated by humanitarian reasons. But as electricity and telecommunications are cut, flights are suspended and most roads are blocked, UN officials and diplomats fear the situation will deteriorate further.
“A ceasefire does not mean cutting off electricity in a region or destroying critical infrastructure,” Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy, said on Twitter on Friday. “A credible ceasefire means doing everything possible to ensure that aid reaches the millions of children, women and men who urgently need it,” he added.
A cease fire doesn’t mean cutting a region off power or destroying critical infrastructure.
A credible cease fire means doing everything possible so that aid reaches the millions of children, women and men who urgently need it. Saving lives should be a priority for all. #Tigray
– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) July 2, 2021
Hope for a ceasefire
Mekele had been under the control of the federal army since November 28, three weeks after the launch by the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize 2019, of an offensive to overthrow the authorities resulting from the People’s Liberation Front du Tigré (TPLF).
But the federal forces never succeeded in fulfilling one of their main objectives: to arrest and disarm the leaders of the TPLF, including the former strongman of the region, Debretsion Gebremichael. At the same time, pro-TPLF forces, called the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), organized themselves, relying on the support of the population to prepare the counter-offensive.
Named Operation Alula – named after a famous 19th-century Tigrayan general – it was launched on June 18, three days before the much-anticipated national elections being held across much of Ethiopia.
During these eight months of conflict, the Amhara region, located south of Tigray, as well as Eritrea, a neighboring country bordering its northern limit, sent their own soldiers there to support the Ethiopian army. Troops from Eritrea, which has yet to respond to the ceasefire announcement, have been blamed for some of the worst massacres of the war, leading the United States and the European Union to call for repeatedly when they leave.
This week, Redwan Hussein, the spokesperson for the government crisis cell for Tigray, said that the withdrawal had started, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) confirmed on Thursday, saying that the Eritreans have largely “withdrawn from Tigray”, moving towards their border.
At the same time, Getachew Reda, one of the TDF spokespersons who called the ceasefire a “joke”, went so far as to threaten to “march” on Addis Ababa and Asmara to defend Tigray.