Ethiopia's parliament on Wednesday removed the rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front from an official list of terrorist groups, a key step in the peace process following the two-year conflict in the country's north.
The Ethiopian parliament has voted to lift the terrorist designation of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) with a majority vote.
The move is seen as crucial to uphold the peace agreement signed in November 2022 between the TPLF and the federal government. The TPLF, which once dominated Ethiopian politics, was officially designated a terrorist organisation in May 2021, six months after the start of the war in Tigray.
During the brutal conflict, the TPLF came close to marching on the capital, but forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed beat them back. The peace deal signed in South Africa's capital Pretoria saw the TPLF agree to disarm in exchange for the restoration of access to Tigray, which was largely cut off from the outside world during the war.
Since the peace agreement there has been some resumption of basic services and aid deliveries to Tigray, which has been facing dire shortages of food, fuel, cash, and medicines.
However, access to the region of six million people remains restricted, and it is impossible to verify independently the situation on the ground. The fighting has killed untold numbers of civilians, displaced over two million, and left millions more in need of humanitarian aid. The United States estimates that as many as half a million people have died during the conflict, while Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union's envoy to the region, has said the final toll could be as high as 600,000.
The war in Tigray has tarnished the reputation of Prime Minister Abiy, a Nobel Peace laureate, with the United States accusing troops from Ethiopia and its ally Eritrea of committing "war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing" during the conflict. Washington singled out Ethiopian, Eritrean, and regional Amhara forces for the violations, without mentioning the TPLF. Ethiopia's foreign ministry, in turn, accused the US of adopting a "partisan and divisive approach."
Official Statement: The Response of the Government of Ethiopia to the #US Determination of Grave Crimes in Northern Ethiopia@DemekeHasen @MMoach pic.twitter.com/ni7hIwRESc— MFA Ethiopia🇪🇹 (@mfaethiopia) March 21, 2023
Since the peace agreement, there have been efforts to restore communications, banking and electricity to Tigray, with Ethiopian Airlines resuming commercial flights between Addis Ababa and Tigray's capital Mekele in December. The conflict broke out when the TPLF attacked military installations, which set off a major offensive by Abiy's government with backing from Eritrea.
(With news agencies)