Several Ethiopian opposition figures were released on Saturday after an unexpected amnesty ordered by the government the day before to important political detainees, including leaders of the Tigrayan party.
The surprise announcement of the amnesty came after a call for
national reconciliation launched Friday on the occasion of the celebration of Orthodox Christmas by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose country has been torn for 14 months by a conflict between the federal government and the rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
But on Saturday, the spokesperson for
claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians, according to a provisional report, in the small town of Dedebit, in the north-west of Tigray.
These allegations could not be independently verified, and Ethiopian government officials have yet to respond to requests from theAFP. Access to Tigray is restricted and communications remain cut off in the region.
However, an official at the main hospital in Mekele, the capital of Tigray, told theAFP that the Shire Town Hospital, where the victims were evacuated, had reported 55 dead and 126 injured.
Mr. Getachew did not say when the attack took place.
Three other people were killed in an airstrike on a refugee camp in the area, reported theUN this week.
The fighters of theTPLF withdrew at the end of December in their stronghold in the northernmost region of Tigray in the face of a military offensive by government forces, which regained control of a series of strategic towns.
The clashes have experienced a lull since the retirement of theTPLF, although the rebels accuse the government of continuing to carry out deadly drone strikes on Tigray.
theTPLF has taken up arms since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to Tigray in November 2020 to remove the regional authorities – from the TPLF – who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked military bases.
A counter-offensive byTPLF allowed the rebels to reconquer most of the region at the end of June 2021 and to advance in those neighboring Amhara and Afar.
They said in November that they had arrived 200 km from Addis Ababa. The war had a new turn at the end of December, when theTPLF withdrew to Tigray after the federal army took over several strategic localities.
The conflict has claimed thousands of lives. The Tigray, submitted according to the
de facto blockade humanitarian aid, lack of food and medicine.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy also called on Friday for
unity. But on Saturday he again lambasted the
foreign and internal enemies, qualifying the TPLF of
According to the government, the objective of the amnesty is
to pave the way for a lasting solution to Ethiopia’s problems.
The key to lasting unity is dialogue, adds his press release, which lists the names of several opposition leaders, but also important members of the TPLF.
It was not clear whether the government offered negotiations with the
terrorist by Addis Ababa.
The amnesty has been hailed by the United Nations and the African Union, spearheads of international efforts to end the conflict.
The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called it
important gesture of appeasement of the political situation, expressing the hope that it paves the way for a national dialogue
The secretary general of
actively engaged in helping Ethiopia for
restore peace and stability.
The number of detainees released is not yet known. The Balderas party has announced the release of its founder, Eskinder Nega, an opposition figure.
The list of named personalities also includes former media mogul Jawar Mohammed, member of the Oromo Federalist Congress. A former ally of Mr. Abiy – himself Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country – Mr. Jawar had become one of his fiercest detractors.
Like Mr. Eskinder, Mr. Jawar was arrested in July 2020 along with other opposition figures, after an outbreak of violence triggered by the murder in Addis Ababa the previous month of a very popular singer, Hachalu Hundessa. .
These demonstrations and violence had killed 239 people in a few days, against a backdrop of ethnic tensions and resentments.