The Ethiopian government on Thursday denied claims of the announcement of the withdrawal of the Tigrayan forces.
Government spokesperson Legesse Tulu told state media that the news that Tigrayan forces had left Afar were “big lies.”
The government asserted that the rebellious forces were still present in the neighboring region of Afar.
Speaking to Reuters on Thursday, Afar Police Commissioner Ahmed Harif said that Tigrayan forces were still in four districts bordering Tigray – Koneba, Abala, Berhale, as well as Magale – and had not moved since Monday.
Getachew Reda, the spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray, did not respond to requests for comment. On Monday, he told Reuters Tigrayan forces were leaving Afar.
The Tigrayan forces said they were withdrawing so that humanitarian convoys could enter. Only a trickle of aid has made it into famine-hit Tigray, where more than 90% of the population needs food aid since the Ethiopian military withdrew at the end of June.
The United Nations has blamed government bureaucracy and fighting for blocking convoys.
On March 25 the federal government announced a unilateral ceasefire, saying it would allow humanitarian aid to enter.
Tigrayan forces agreed to respect the ceasefire on the condition that sufficient aid was delivered to their region “within a reasonable time.”
Since the ceasefire was declared, 145 trucks have made it into Tigray, according to the U.N. World Food Programme but at least 100 per day are needed, the United Nations says.
Tigrayan forces have been fighting the central government since November 2020, accusing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of wanting to centralize power at the expense of the regions in an effort to regain national power, which he lost when he was appointed in 2018.