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Ethiopia: motion of Eritrean troops, america welcomes an “ongoing withdrawal”

Residents of the cities of Shire and Adwa advised AFP that they’d seen Eritrean troopers, who supported the Ethiopian military in its battle towards the dissident Tigrayan authorities between November 2020 and November 2022, leaving in giant numbers since Friday after -noon.

Their vacation spot, nevertheless, was nonetheless unknown and troops have been nonetheless current in each cities on Saturday, they stated.

After a cellphone name with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of an “ongoing withdrawal of Eritrean troops from northern Ethiopia”.

He “welcomed this growth, noting that it was essential to making sure lasting peace in northern Ethiopia,” the State Division stated in a press release.

The presence of Eritrean troopers, accused of quite a few abuses towards civilians, is taken into account one of many predominant obstacles to the peace signed on November 2 in Pretoria between the Ethiopian authorities and the Tigrayan rebels. However Eritrea didn’t participate within the discussions.

– “Persons are ready” –

Contacted by AFP on Saturday, neither the Tigrayan authorities, nor the Ethiopian authorities, nor Igad – an East African regional physique which participates within the statement mission of the peace settlement – confirmed to AFP a withdrawal of Eritrean forces.

As entry to Tigray is restricted, it’s not possible to independently confirm the scenario on the bottom.

In Shire, two residents stated they’d seen troopers retreating since Friday afternoon.

A video transmitted to AFP by one in every of them exhibits vans of troopers leaving town, honking their horns, the flag of Eritrea flapping within the wind.

One other additionally claimed to have seen a convoy leaving town, with vans and buses loaded with troopers, artillery items and tanks. However “Eritrean forces are marching within the streets and within the markets” on Saturday, he added.

A resident of Adwa, 85 kilometers east of Shire, additionally reported a “large-scale” troop departure. “Most headed west (…) whereas others headed north in the direction of Rama”, a locality close to the border with Eritrea, he detailed.

“I noticed that there have been nonetheless fairly just a few Eritrean troopers left,” he added: “Persons are ready to search out out if this time the Eritrean forces are actually withdrawing.”

– Looting and massacres –

A rustic bordering Tigray, Eritrea despatched troops from the beginning of the battle in November 2020 to help the Ethiopian military despatched by Abiy Ahmed to dismiss the authorities on this area who had been contesting his authority for months and whom he accused of attacking federal navy bases.

Addis Ababa and Asmara have for months denied any Eritrean involvement in Tigray. On the finish of March 2021, Mr. Abiy lastly admitted their presence. Their departure was introduced a number of occasions, however by no means verified.

These troops have been accused of looting, massacres and rapes all through the battle, notably within the metropolis of Aksoum or the village of Dengolat.

Testimonies collected by AFP from residents and assist staff additionally reported quite a few abuses carried out after the signing of the Pretoria settlement.

If confirmed, this withdrawal marks a serious step ahead within the peace course of launched on 2 November.

Because the settlement, the preventing has stopped, the supply of humanitarian and medical assist is steadily resuming, the federal police have returned to the regional capital Mekele which has additionally been related to the nationwide electrical energy grid.

However the navy part stays largely topic to the Eritrean presence.

The rebels introduced on January 11 that they’d began handing over their heavy weapons in accordance with the settlement, saying they hoped “that this can go a great distance in the direction of accelerating (its) full implementation”.

A doc on the appliance of the peace settlement offered particularly that “the disarmament of heavy weapons (Tigrayan) ought to be (finished) concurrently with the withdrawal of overseas and non-federal forces”, with specific reference to Eritrea.

In the beginning of December, in addition they introduced that they’d withdrawn most of their fighters from the entrance strains, whereas sustaining them in sure locations to keep away from “atrocities” carried out by “forces within the area which (…) are obstacles to peace”.

As soon as these threats have been eliminated, “we are going to do (a disengagement) 100%”, they assured.

Supply: AFP

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