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Radio France Internationale
Radio France Internationale
Michael Fitzpatrick

Ethiopia's Tigray rebels start disarming under terms of Pretoria peace deal

The aftermath of an airstrike in Mekele, capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, during the conflict. © AP

Tigrayan rebels began handing in their heavy weapons on Wednesday, a crucial element in the peace deal signed with the federal government last November, ending the two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia.

"Tigray has handed over its heavy weapons as part of its commitment to implementing the #Pretoria agreement," Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) spokesman Getachew Reda tweeted on Wednesday, referring to the 2 November deal signed in the South African capital.

"We hope and expect this will go a long way in expediting the full implementation of the agreement."

There was no immediate reaction from the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

According to the peace deal, the disarmament of heavy Tigrayan weapons is supposed to take place at the same time as the withdrawal of foreign and non-federal forces.

Neighbouring Eritrea supported the Ethiopian army in the conflict but did not participate in the Pretoria talks.

Conflict behind closed doors

The conflict errupted in November 2020 when Abiy Ahmed deployed the army in a bid to topple Tigrayan leaders who had been challenging his authority for months. He accused the rebels of attacking federal military bases.

The two-year conflict displaced more than two million Ethiopians and plunged hundreds of thousands of people into near-famine conditions, according to the UN. The fighting left more than 13.6 million people dependent on humanitarian aid in northern Ethiopia.

Tigrayans have denounced "atrocities" they say were committed by Eritrea's army and by regional forces from neighbouring Amhara. Accusations include looting, rape, executions and abductions of civilians.

With access to Tigray still restricted, it is impossible to independently verify the situation on the ground.

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