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Ethiopia: Govt delegation en route to Mekele for first official visit since start of war

Ethiopian officials   -  
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An Ethiopian government delegation was on its way to the capital of Tigray on Monday morning for the first official visit by senior federal officials more than two years after the start of a conflict in the rebel region, the government announced.

The group of officials, led by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tagesse Chafo, is to "oversee the implementation of the main points of the peace agreement" signed on November 2 with the Tigrayan rebel authorities, the government's communication service said in a statement on Facebook.

"This gesture is a proof that the peace agreement is on the right track and progressing," it added, accompanying the text with a photo of the delegation composed of about 20 people on an airport tarmac.

The photo shows the Prime Minister's National Security Advisor Redwan Hussein, the Ministers of Justice Gedion Timotheos, Transport and Communications Dagmawit Moges and Industry Melaku Alebel, as well as the CEOs of Ethiopian Airlines and Ethio Telecom, Mesfin Tassew and Frehiwot Tamiru.

The government and rebel authorities signed an agreement in Pretoria on November 2 to end a war that has ravaged northern Ethiopia for two years, killing tens of thousands and plunging the region into a deep humanitarian crisis.

The agreement provides for the disarmament of rebel forces, the re-establishment of federal authority in Tigray and the reopening of access to the region.

Since then, the fighting has stopped, food and medical aid is gradually arriving, the rebels have announced that they have "disengaged" 65% of their fighters from the front lines, the town of Mekele has been connected to the national electricity grid and the main bank has announced the resumption of its financial operations in certain towns.

However, the rebel authorities, as well as residents and humanitarian workers who spoke to AFP, accuse the army of Eritrea, a country that borders Tigray to the north, and the security forces and militias of the Ethiopian region of Amhara, which borders Tigray to the south, of numerous acts of violence against civilians, including looting, rape, abductions and executions.

These two forces lent a hand to the Ethiopian army during the conflict but were not present at the Pretoria talks.

Since the agreement was signed, representatives of the rebel authorities and the government have met several times, including twice in the capital Nairobi.

At the end of their latest meeting on Thursday, they agreed on a ceasefire monitoring mechanism, which will also collect complaints of violations against civilians.

The fighting began in November 2020, when Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to arrest leaders in the region who had been challenging his authority for months and whom he accused of attacking federal military bases.

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