African Union mediators are visiting Ethiopia's war-devastated
Tigray region in their latest effort to implement a peace deal signed by the
federal government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
Nigeria's former President Olusegun Obasanjo and South Africa's former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka are in the regional capital, Mekelle, for
talks with TPLF leaders.
This is their first visit to Mekelle since the peace deal was
signed on 2 November.
Little food, medication and other essentials have reached
Tigray, despite Mr Obasanjo saying on 12 November that aid should have gone in
The region has been under a government blockade since the war
started more than two years ago.
Some researchers estimate that famine, a lack of health
care and fighting has caused the deaths of more than 300,000 civilians.
Another major issue is the disarmament of Tgrayan forces, and
the withdrawal of Eritrean forces deployed to bolster federal government troops
fighting the TPLF.
The US - which had observer
status during the peace talks - has called for this to happen
The TPLF spokesman says his group is ready to address political problems in a “peaceful” manner.
US urges withdrawal of foreign forces in Tigray
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken to Ethiopia’s
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed about the implementation
of the ceasefire deal between government troops and Tigray forces in the north.
“[The] Ethiopian Prime Minister and I discussed the urgent
need to implement the cessation of hostilities agreement and to secure lasting
peace in northern Ethiopia,” Mr Blinken said in a tweet.
In a readout of his phone call to the Ethiopian leader, Mr Blinken stressed the need to immediately implement
the deal “including
withdrawal of all foreign forces and concurrent disarmament of the Tigrayan
Mr Abiy has already reiterated his government's commitment to the peace deal.
The secretary of state said the US was committed to support
the African Union-led process including its monitoring and verification
mechanism of the peace agreement
Mr Blinken recognised ongoing efforts by the Ethiopian government "to work towards unhindered humanitarian assistance and restoration of basic services" in Tigray and neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions.
Amhara and Afar regional forces, as well as Eritrean troops,
have been fighting alongside the federal forces war against the Tigrayan
On 2 November the Ethiopia's government and Tigrayan fighters
agreed, in a surprise move, to halt their two-year conflict.
The conflict has led to thousands of deaths and warnings of a
Ethiopia rebel stronghold hit by measles outbreak
BBC Afaan Oromoo
Residents in remote areas of western Ethiopia say
children have been dying from a measles outbreak for the past few months as there is
little access to hospital.
Those who talked to the BBC say road blocks erected as a result of the ongoing conflict in the region had hampered movement.
The federal government has been fighting a deadly insurgency
in western Oromia – a stronghold of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebels.
Health official Dereje Abdena confirmed to the BBC about the outbreaks of measles and malaria in the region - including in areas
hit by drought.
The authorities said they were trying to reach out to
"Just a few days ago we buried two children who died from measles. Medics have left the area," a resident of Kondala district in West Wollega zone said.
Measles is highly contagious and can cause serious illness. It can sometimes be fatal.
In a recent report, the UN said the humanitarian situation
in western Oromia region "remains complex" with hundreds of thousands
displaced due to conflicts.
‘’Access, security and resources remain challenging to
reach the affected population," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.
Ethiopia allies to leave Tigray 'after rebels disarm'
The world through its media
Communication Service Minister Legese Tulu has said that all forces fighting in
the Tigray region who are not part of the federal army will withdraw as soon as the Tigrayan
and Afar regional forces, as well as Eritrean troops, have been fighting
alongside the federal forces in the two-year war against the rebels of the
Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The government and the TPLF signed a peace agreement on 2 November in Pretoria, South Africa, to end the war in the north of the country, and the army and rebel commanders also signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in Nairobi, Kenya, on 12 November.
an opposition party in Tigray region, Baytona Tigray, has rejected the peace
agreement, saying the TPLF does not represent the Tigray people.
Food aid entering Tigray after peace deal - WFP
WFP/ TwitterCopyright: WFP/ Twitter
The World Food Programme (WFP) says the first food aid trucks to enter Ethiopia's northern Tigray region since the signing of a peace deal earlier this month are rolling into the region.
"Critical food assistance will now be delivered to communities in coming days. More food, nutrition, medical cargo will follow," WFP tweeted, along with a video of the aid trucks driving.
On 2 November the warring sides - Ethiopia's government and Tigrayan fighters - agreed, in a surprise move, to halt their two-year conflict which led to thousands of deaths and warnings of a famine.
Half of Tigray's 5.5 million people need food aid, with many of them starving.
A senior member of the Tigray People's Liberation Front
(TPLF) has defended his decision to sign a peace pact with the Ethiopian
government aimed at ending the devastating war in the northern Tigray region.
Getachew Reda's comments came after heavy criticism of
the deal he signed with the federal government in South Africa's capital, Pretoria, on 2 November, following talks brokered by the African Union (AU).
In a statement at the weekend, the TPLF's top leadership
body, the central committee, said it did not send "any representative to
South Africa to sign a peace agreement, nor is there any TPLF army”.
Many TPLF leaders felt that Mr Getachew should have
signed the deal on behalf of the Tigray regional government, but Mr Getcahew said
the federal government had refused to agree to this.
"We didn’t want to reject the peace and aid needed
by the people of Tigray because they didn’t accept our name," he said.
"They said: 'We don’t know the government of Tigray.
We will call you TPLF.’ We need peace. In this regard the African Union and
others know that we have been arguing to be called as the government of Tigray
because we have been elected by the people. But the [Ethiopian] law doesn't
recognise us," he added.
Some Tigrayans have welcomed the deal, but others, at
home and abroad, have accused TPLF leaders of selling out the community.
TPLF negotiators also agreed to the disarmament of
Tigrayan forces, and giving the Ethiopian military control over security in the
region, despite the fact that it has been accused of committing atrocities
Critics of the deal are outraged, saying the TPLF had no
authority to disarm fighters who are in the Tigray Defence Forces, which they
see as an "army" and "a public institution that protects the
people of Tigray".
Eritrean troops entered Tigray early in the conflict to
fight Tigrayan forces, and have also been accused of committing widespread atrocities. They have not yet withdrawn.
The TPLF was re-elected as the Tigray regional government
in September 2020. But it held the poll in defiance of the federal government,
which refused to recognise its rule over the region.
The dispute contributed to the outbreak of a war that has
left hundreds of thousands dead, and millions in need of aid as the federal
government enforced a blockade in the region.
The agreement also provides for unhindered aid deliveries
to Tigray, but Mr Getcahew acknowledged that this was not yet happening.
"We are waiting. What can we do?"
Continued fighting has also been reported in western
Tigray around Tselemti.
Western Tigray was seized by forces from the neighbouring
Amhara region early in the war, and they have not withdrawn from the area.
Ethiopian forces control 70% of Tigray - government
The Ethiopian government says that its federal forces now control 70%
of the northern region of Tigray, a claim that has been denied by an official from the war-torn region
Ethiopian Prime Minister’s national security adviser, Redwan Hussien tweeted that “70% of Tigray is under the Ethiopia National Defence Forces] and that aid was “flowing like no other times” including in areas he said were not under the control of the government’s forces.
The spokesman of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), Getachew Reda, has however denied the claim, the AFP news agency reports.
"He is plucking his facts out of thin
air," Mr Getachew is quoted as saying.
Representatives of Tigray and the government in Addis Ababa have
been meeting in Kenya this week to discuss the implementation of the peace deal
signed last week in South Africa.
The two parties signed an agreement committing to end two
years of fighting in Tigray.
Air strike kills 'many civilians' in west Ethiopia
BBC Afaan Oromoo
Getty ImagesCopyright: Getty Images
Many civilians have been killed in an air strike
in the Ethiopian western town of Mandi, about 500km (310 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa, sources have told the BBC.
Residents said the strike happened around lunchtime on Wednesday in the town where Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) militias have been in control for days after a fight with
government security forces.
A resident anonymously told the BBC that the government was targeting the militias but majority of those who were killed and
wounded were civilians.
He said an OLA vehicle parked by the roadside with some of its members inside was hit by a drone causing bombs that the fighters had to explode, killing civilians around the area.
His friend and a gospel preacher Tariku Wanna, a father of one daughter, was among those who died. He said they had lunch together at the area before he left him to go somewhere.
"After five minutes the drone bombed
them. When I returned to that place I found his body lying down on the ground.
I saw many scattered bodies but didn’t count, but the majority of them were
civilians," he said.
The BBC tried to reach Tariku’s wife but she was
in a state of complete shock and disbelief.
Another resident of the town, who spoke to the BBC anonymously for the sake of his own safety, put the number of
civilians killed in the air strike to at least 20.
He said around seven to eight people died instantly while another 13 were admitted to hospital and died there from their injuries.
The OLA’s spokesperson Oda Tarbi put the number of civilians killed at 30, but didn’t mention the number of their soldiers who were killed.
The BBC couldn’t verify the number of casualties from the hospital sources.
Politicians have condemned
the attack with the Oromo Liberation Party calling it "barbaric" asking the government not to target civilians.
The Ethiopian government has not commented on the matter. The BBC reached out to the Oromia region’s security official but he declined to comment.
Aid deliveries to start in Tigray 'by end of the week'
Humanitarian aid will start reaching people who face hunger and disease in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray by the end of the week, according to the national security adviser to the prime minister of Ethiopia.
Millions of people in the region are in urgent need of food, medicine, and other basic supplies.
Redwan Hussien is quoted as saying by the US State Department that "aid would flow unhindered" as was agreed in the peace talks.
The final round of talks between representatives of Tigray and the government in Addis Ababa are expected to end on Friday in Kenya.
Both parties have been meeting to discuss the implementation of the peace deal signed last week in South Africa.
Ethiopia's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front have committed to ending two years of fighting.
The deal calls for aid deliveries to restart in Tigray and for essential services to be restored. Millions of people there urgently need food and medicine.
Food and medicine not reaching Tigray yet - WHO
Africa editor, BBC World Service
The World Health Organization says no food or medicine has reached the Ethiopian region of Tigray despite the signing of a ceasefire last week.
The United Nations has accused Ethiopia of using starvation as a weapon of war in Tigray, where it says a humanitarian blockade put 90% of the population at risk.
"Nothing is moving," said WHO head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"I was expecting food and medicine to start flowing immediately after the ceasefire. That's not happening."
He said people were dying from starvation and treatable diseases.
Dr Tedros, who comes from Tigray, called for the restoration of telecom, banking and other basic services.
He said six million people had been shut off from the rest of the world for two years as if they didn't exist.
An Ethiopian official said Dr Tedros was trying to undermine the peace agreement - and that food and medicine were reaching Tigray.
He said electricity and telecom services had been restored in some areas.
Tigray witness: Food prices drop as ceasefire takes hold
An exclusive report from a journalist in Tigray
Following last week's signing of a truce to end fighting in Ethiopia's northern Tigray, things feel different in the regional capital, Mekelle.
Drones are no longer flying over the city, people are starting to go out without fear, and a relatively normal life is returning to the city.
People are desperate for humanitarian aid. They also want the main roads to open so that they can travel again.
Spiralling food prices have started to stabilise, and even fall. For instance the price of teff, the grain used to make the staple injera, a pancake-like fermented bread, is down by around 40%.
The price of a bag of wheat has fallen from 9,000 Ethiopian birr ($168; £145) to 3,000 Ethiopian birr ($56).
The prices of oil, sugar and pepper are also decreasing as supplies slowly trickle through.
On the street, everyone talks about the peace agreement signed by the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in South Africa, and are following its developments.
News is not easy to get here, people crowd around radios on the street.
There is very little power.
Rahel Abay, a mother of two, is optimistic: "At least, we have started to move around without constant fear of drone attacks."
Many people in the city expressed similar feelings.
"We, the Tigrayan people, as any people in Ethiopia want to live peacefully. We know how much war costs us. But we want the parties in the peace agreement to implement the truce," Belay Takelle, 32, said.
Like many others, he has reservations about the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray.
"I want to listen to the news about the withdrawal of the 'Sha'ebiya' [Eritrean army] from my land," he said.
Eritrean forces were deployed into Tigray at the start of the war in November 2020 to support the Ethiopian army in its conflict with Tigrayan forces.
One of the crucial issues under discussion is the disarmament of the Tigrayan army.
People I spoke to agreed that the Ethiopian constitution has to be respected. This means not having this regional army co-existing with the Ethiopian army so it must disband.
However, they do not trust the Ethiopian army, which they accuse of committing many atrocities against civilians over the last two years.
Politics here is not easy.
The TPLF has promised to implement the peace agreement, but the day the deal was signed, three opposition parties rejected it, saying it was damaging to the interests of Tigrayans.
Ethiopia troops and rebels 'share food and cigarettes'
The world through its media
Ethiopia's federal forces and rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters have begun taking conciliatory actions at the warfront as disarmament talks between their commanders continue in Kenya.
Redwan Hussein, the security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, told the US-based Ethiopian Media Services (EMS TV) on Tuesday that TPLF combatants were now approaching federal troops at the warfront for food and cigarettes.
"They eat food, get cigarettes, pose for photos and jointly bury the dead. In fact, they [TPLF delegates] are telling us that they have videos showing all that and we will have them," said Mr Redwan, who is also attending the talks in Nairobi.
Mr Redwan said soldiers were keen on the peace process because they do not enjoy "killing and dying".
"They want to save their lives and help their parents. The problem is politics and once political problems are solved, everything else is back to normal," added Mr Redwan.
Ethiopia's army chief Field Marshal Birhanu Jula and TPLF commander Tadese Werede are in Nairobi to discuss a plan for the disarmament of the TPLF and rehabilitation of its combatants as stipulated by the peace agreement signed in South Africa on 2 November.
On Monday, TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said they had had to make concessions for the sake of peace.
"Everything we do, every move we make, or every agreement we sign is driven by the need to ensure the interest of the people of Tigray. Peace is what our people need more than anything. Whether we will deliver on our promise in a manner that satisfies our people time will tell," he tweeted.