Ethiopia declares immediate, unilateral ceasefire in Tigray

Ethiopia’s government said it has declared an immediate, unilateral ceasefire in its northern Tigray region after nearly eight months of deadly conflict, amid reports that Tigray’s former governing party has retaken control of the regional capital Mekelle.

The statement on the ceasefire on Monday carried by state media came shortly after the Tigray interim administration, appointed by the federal government, fled Mekelle and called for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds so that desperately needed aid can be delivered.

Meanwhile, the former governing party in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said on Monday it was back in control of Mekelle, and residents reported seeing troops in Tigray regional uniforms in the city for the first time since November.

“The capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is under our control,” Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters news agency by satellite phone.

Ethiopia says the ceasefire will last until the end of the crucial planting season in Tigray. The season’s end comes in September.

“The government has the responsibility to find a political solution to the problem,” the head of the interim administration, Abraham Belay, said, adding that some elements within Tigray’s former ruling party are willing to engage with the federal government.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Malcolm Webb speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, said there were reports of people “celebrating in the streets … and local residents shooting fireworks”.

The Ethiopian prime minister’s spokesperson, the head of the government’s emergency task force on Tigray and the military’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.

Moreover, the UN children’s agency accused the Ethiopian government troops on Monday of dismantling satellite equipment in UNICEF’s office in Tigray.

“This act violates UN privileges and immunities and the rules of international humanitarian law regarding respect for humanitarian relief objects. I condemn this action in the strongest terms,” UN children’s agency’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore, posted on Twitter.

“UNICEF’s priority in Tigray, and across Ethiopia, is to help the most vulnerable children, including the 140,000 children already facing famine-like conditions,” she said.

The region in recent days has seen some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict.

Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting as Ethiopian and allied forces pursue Tigray’s former leaders and their supporters, and as humanitarian groups plead for more access to the region of six million people. Hundreds of thousands of people face the world’s worst famine crisis in 10 years.

International pressure on Ethiopia spiked again last week after a military airstrike on a busy market in Tigray killed more than 60 people.

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