Ethiopia, Tigray Rebels Declare Humanitarian Truce So Millions Can Get Aid

The Ethiopian government and rebels in the embattled Tigray region have declared a truce to allow humanitarian aid to reach millions in need. Food, water and medicine in the northern region have been limited for months due to the ongoing conflict and accusations that both sides are blocking roads.

Some aid organizations are still studying the government’s statement on the cease-fire in the Tigray region to determine how much access they will have.

In a statement to VOA, Oxfam International Country Director Gezahegn Kebede Gebrehena called on all warring parties to honor the truce and allow aid agencies unfettered access to the communities.

However, Hassan Khannenje, the head of the Horn Institute for Strategic Studies, does not believe the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, will give aid groups a free hand.

Both sides, he says, may fear exposing human rights abuses.

“They may be afraid in certain instances the humanitarian organization may have access to evidence of the crimes that were committed during the war, and so I do not think they are going to have a free access to every part they want or to every human who is going to be in need. But to the extent they will have some access is positive,” Khannenje said.

The Ethiopian government launched a military operation against the TPLF rebel group in November 2020. The 16-month conflict has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people, and displaced millions.

The conflict spread to other parts of the country and at one point, rebel groups threatened to march to the capital to topple Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

Obang Metho, a social justice activist, welcomes the temporary halt to the conflict.

“There are so many people who are suffering not only in Tigray region but throughout Ethiopia in Afar region, Amhara region,” Metho said. “Those people definitely need assistance. So the truce is not only what is happening in the Tigray region alone. I think what is happening in Ethiopia. I hope that it will lead to helping people.”

Khannenje says the pressure exerted on the Ethiopian government and rebel groups has paid off.

“In part, it’s in response to the growing calls by the international community, especially the West, to allow humanitarian access to the Tigray region,” he said. “It is also partly informed by the growing confidence of the Abiy Ahmed government to contain the Tigray. They no longer see them as an existential threat like they saw them a couple of months ago.”

The aid groups estimate at least 9.4 million people in Ethiopia need urgent humanitarian aid after fleeing their farms and homes due to conflict.

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