The Ethiopian government has declared a ceasefire in the Tigray region – eight months after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to destroy its leadership.
The unexpected announcement by the Ethiopian government also comes after reports of anti-government troops advancing in the streets of Tigray’s capital, Mekelle.
More than five million people are in urgent need of food aid, the UN says, with 350,000 facing famine while the Ethiopian government has been accused of carrying out mass killings and human rights violations.
After the government forces took control of Tigray last month, reports began to emerge on Monday, June 28, that the Tigrayan fighters had recaptured Mekelle after launching a new offensive last week .
Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told news agency Reuters the city was now ‘under their control’.
An unnamed source within the interim government told news agency AFP “everyone has left”, while two eyewitnesses told Reuters Tigrayan soldiers were seen in Mekelle while Ethiopian troops have pulled out of the region.
As of press time, Ethiopia’s government is yet to comment on a report that its troops have retreated.
UN children’s agency Unicef has issued a statement, condemning national Ethiopian soldiers who, they say, entered their office and forcibly dismantled their satellite equipment.
Reports in Mekelle and posts on social media appear to show supporters of the Tigrayan rebels parading with flags.
The TPLF has called on the city’s residents to stay calm and collaborate with its forces.
Last November Ethiopia’s government launched an offensive to oust the region’s then ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The TPLF had a massive fallout with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over political changes to the country’s ethnically based federal system but the invasion came after the TPLF’s capture of military bases in Tigray.
Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict while tens of thousands have found refuge in neighboring Sudan.