Tigray rebels start handing over heavy weapons: TPLF spokesperson
The TPLF says it handed over its heavy weapons as part of its commitment to implementing the Pretoria agreement with the Ethiopian government.
Tigrayan rebels have begun handing in their heavy weapons, a key part of an agreement signed more than two months ago to end a deadly conflict in northern Ethiopia, a spokesperson for the rebel authorities confirmed.
The terms of a peace agreement signed on November 2 include disarming rebel forces, restoring federal authority in Tigray, and reopening access and communications to the region, which has been cut off since mid-2021.
Fighting broke out in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed deployed the army to arrest Tigrayan leaders whom he accused of attacking federal military bases.
"Tigray has handed over its heavy weapons as part of its commitment to implementing the #Pretoria agreement" that was signed between Ethiopia's government and Tigrayan rebels, Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) Spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted Wednesday.
"We hope & expect this will go a long way in expediting the full implementation of the agreement. We hope & expect!," he added.
Tigray has handed over its heavy weapons as part of its commitment to implementing the #Pretoria agreement, and the Monitoring & Verification Team has confirmed it. We hope & expect this will go a long way in expediting the full implementation of the agreement. We hope & expect!— Getachew K Reda (@reda_getachew) January 10, 2023
A deal on the implementation of the agreement signed on November 12 stated that the disarmament of heavy Tigrayan weapons would take place at the same time as the withdrawal of foreign and non-federal forces.
An Ethiopian government delegation, including the Prime Minister's national security advisor Redwan Hussein and several ministers, visited Tigray's capital Mekele on December 26, marking a major step in the peace process.
A few days later, on December 29, Ethiopian federal police entered Mekele for the first time in 18 months.
"One of the deadliest in the world"
The precise toll of the conflict, which was largely fought amid media restrictions, is unknown. The International Crisis Group think tank and rights group Amnesty International have described it as "one of the deadliest in the world."
Although the fighting has stopped since November's peace deal and the rebels have claimed to have "disengaged" 65% of their fighters from the front lines, Tigrayans have denounced the "atrocities" they say have been committed by Eritrea's army and the forces of Ethiopia's neighboring Amhara region, which have supported the federal army in the conflict.
Tigrayan authorities, as well as residents and aid workers who testified to AFP, accuse them of looting, rape, executions, and abductions of civilians.
Since the peace deal was signed, humanitarian operations have been ramped up, but the amount of food and medical aid being delivered remains far below the enormous needs.
According to the United Nations, the war has displaced more than two million Ethiopians and plunged hundreds of thousands of people into near-famine conditions.
The war has left more than 13.6 million people dependent on humanitarian aid in northern Ethiopia, the UN highlighted.
Read more: Eritrea withdrawing troops from Tigray