Ethiopian government calls for official ceasefire with Tigray rebels

The World Health Organisation calls the humanitarian situation in the northern region 'the worst disaster on Earth'

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Ethiopia's government has called for an official ceasefire with the rebels in Tigray who have been at war since November 2020.

In June, a committee established to begin talks with the rebels said it had made up a “peace proposal” to end the conflict and enable basic services to be resumed in the northern region.

“In order to ensure a sustained provision of humanitarian aid as well as to facilitate the resumption of basic services and also to resolve the conflict peacefully; the committee has underscored that there is a need to conclude a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible,” the Ethiopian peace committee said.

“To expedite this process, the committee has deliberated upon and adopted a peace proposal that would lead to the conclusion of a ceasefire and lay the foundation for future political dialogue.”

On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation called the war in Tigray “the worst disaster on Earth”.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, whose family originated from Tigray, questioned whether the lack of international action was due to the “skin colour” of the people involved in the conflict.

The Tigray People's Liberation Front rebel group dismissed the Ethiopian government's calls, and said Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government had shown no real appetite for dialogue.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda accused the government of “obfuscation” and said its forces were “actively provoking our forces in various fronts”.

“They have openly defied their oft-repeated promise to take measures aimed at creating conducive environment for peaceful negotiations such as ensuring unfettered humanitarian access and restoration of services to Tigray,” he said.

The TPLF has long insisted that basic services would have to be restored to the region of six million people before dialogue could begin.

Fighting has eased in northern Ethiopia since a truce was declared at the end of March, allowing the resumption of international aid convoys to Tigray after a break of three months.

Ethiopia's northernmost region has suffered desperate food shortages and is without access to basic services such as electricity, communications and banking.

Millions in need of aid

Ethiopia's peace committee, meanwhile, said it would submit its proposal to the African Union.

The AU has been leading the push to end the conflict that has killed many thousands of people and left millions in need of humanitarian aid.

“All effort is being exerted in collaboration with the African Union so that it would be possible to determine the venue and time for talks and to begin peace talks quickly and to conclude a ceasefire agreement shortly,” it said.

Mr Ahmed's government says any negotiations must be led by the AU's Horn of Africa envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, but the rebels want outgoing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to mediate.

The war in northern Ethiopia broke out when Mr Abiy ordered troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF, accusing rebels of attacking federal army camps.

It followed months of tension between the government and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades until Mr Abiy took office in 2018.

Updated: August 18, 2022, 8:51 AM