The leader of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region has announced that all forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have been recalled home.
Debretsion Gebremichael said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutterres on Dec. 19 that his forces, which were reportedly closing in on the capital Addis Ababa, had been recalled back to Tigray to give room for the international community to push for a peace process.
“I am writing on behalf of the people of Tigray and the National Regional Government of Tigray to reiterate our call for peace,” Gebremichael said.
“I have ordered those units of the Tigray army that are outside the borders of Tigray to withdraw to the borders of Tigray with immediate effect. We trust that our bold act of withdrawal will be a decisive opening for peace,” he added.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said Monday on Twitter that the TPLF has just completed the withdrawal of its forces from both the Amhara and Afar regions.
“By doing so, we believe we have taken away whatever excuse the international community has to explain its feet-dragging when it comes to putting pressure on [Ethiopian Prime Minister] Abiy Ahmed and his regional partners in crime to stop their genocidal campaign in Tigray,” Reda said.
“While we will continue to do everything to defend our people from any threat, it now behooves the international community to try and bring pressure on these repeat offenders gagging for yet another round of genocide in Tigray. They need to be told that they cannot get away with yet another military adventure.”
The government of Ethiopia, which recently announced retaking towns from the rebels, is yet to comment on the TPLF’s move to withdraw its troops from key regions in a bid to bring an end to hostilities in the country that have claimed thousands of lives.
In his letter to the UN, Gebremichael called for arms embargoes on Ethiopia and its neighbor to the north, Eritrea.
The conflict in the Tigray region has expanded to other areas and forced at least 2 million people from their homes, and many civilians are not getting access to humanitarian assistance while thousands of others have been killed by both sides.
Acute food insecurity is now affecting more than 9.4 million people in northern Ethiopia, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Within Tigray, 5.2 million people – roughly 90% of the population – are in need of humanitarian aid.
According to the UN, all parties to the conflict, including the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Tigrayan forces and the Eritrean Defense Forces, have “to varying degrees” committed violations of international human rights.
The raging war broke out last year in Ethiopia between the government and forces of the TPLF.