Ethiopia says 70 per cent of Tigray under government control

Food and medicine is being delivered to the region, according to national security adviser Redwan Hussein

Ethiopian government soldiers near Agula, north of the Tigray region's main city of Mekele. AP Photo
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Ethiopia's army now controls 70 per cent of the northern region of Tigray, a senior government official said on Friday.

Redwan Hussein, national security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, also said aid had begun flowing into the region, where two years of fighting have created a severe humanitarian crisis.

“70 per cent of Tigray is under ENDF [Ethiopian National Defence Force],” Mr Redwan said in a post on Twitter.

He said 35 lorries carrying food and three lorries of medicine had been sent to the strategic city of Shire.

“Aid is flowing like no other times,” he said.

Mr Redwan's claims could not be independently verified as the government has severely restricted access to the region of six million people, including for journalists, since Mr Abiy sent the army there to fight the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in 2020.

Aid groups and international organisations say residents of Tigray have suffered a severe lack of food and medicine, and limited access to basic services including electricity, banking and communications, since fighting began.

The government and the TPLF signed a peace deal in the South African capital Pretoria on November 2 after little more than a week of negotiations brokered by the African Union.

It calls for the cessation of hostilities, restoration of humanitarian aid, the re-establishment of federal authority over Tigray and the disarming of TPLF fighters.

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday called for a massive influx of food and medicines into Tigray following the ceasefire deal, saying desperately-needed aid had not yet been allowed in.

“Many people are dying from treatable diseases. Many people are dying from starvation,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who is from Tigray, said at a press conference.

“Even in the middle of fighting, civilians need food, need medicine. It cannot be a condition.”

Talks have been under way in the Kenyan capital Nairobi this week between representatives of the warring sides to follow up on the Pretoria deal.

The meetings were expected to discuss the disarmament of the rebels, while the AU said they should also provide a road map for immediate humanitarian access and restoration of services in Tigray.

The conflict between the TPLF and pro-government forces, which include regional militias and troops from neighbouring Eritrea, has forced more than two million people from their homes amid reports of horrific abuses by all parties.

Estimates of casualties vary widely, with the US saying that as many as half a million have died, while the EU's foreign envoy Josep Borrell said that more than 100,000 people may have been killed.

UN investigators have accused Addis Ababa of possible crimes against humanity in Tigray and of using starvation as a weapon of war — claims denied by the Ethiopian authorities.

Mr Abiy, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, sent troops into Tigray on November 4, 2020 to topple the TPLF, the region's ruling party, in response to what he said were attacks by the group on federal army camps.

— With reporting from AFP.

Updated: November 11, 2022, 8:51 AM