Forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region who fought in support of federal troops during the two-year civil war in neighbouring Tigray have withdrawn in line with an African Union-backed ceasefire, the army says.
“The Amhara regional special force, which was in a national mission along with the ENDF, has withdrawn from the area, as per the deal,” the Ethiopian National Defence Force said in a statement late on Thursday.
The withdrawal is a key step towards implementing the agreement reached on November 2. Another key component is the disarmament of Tigrayan forces, who began to hand over their heavy weapons on Wednesday.
The agreement was signed by Ethiopia’s federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a party that dominates the region.
The conflict broke out in November 2020 over disagreements between the federal government in Addis Ababa and Tigrayan authorities. It has created famine-like conditions for hundreds of thousands of people and killed tens of thousands.
According to the United Nations, the war has displaced more than two million Ethiopians and left more than 13.6 million people in the north dependent on humanitarian aid.
The restoration of basic services in Tigray, resumption of humanitarian aid and withdrawal of troops from neighbouring Eritrea, who fought alongside Ethiopia’s army, are central to the deal.
Eritrean soldiers began to pull out of several important towns in Tigray late last month. However, they have not left those towns entirely, residents say, and it is not clear whether they intend to leave.
Eritrea, which was not a party to the truce, has declined to comment on whether its troops will leave Tigray.
Tigrayan rebels this week began handing in their heavy weapons in the town of Agulae, about 30km (18 miles) northeast of the regional capital Mekelle, in a move overseen by a monitoring team made up of members of the two sides and a regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
Besides disarming rebel forces, the terms of the agreement also include restoring federal authority in Tigray and reopening access and communications to the region, which has been cut off since mid-2021.