Tigrayan forces have warned of renewed conflict in northern Ethiopia, accusing federal forces of firing on their positions this week, despite a months-long cease-fire. The office of the prime minister dismissed the allegation and said it was aimed at deflecting efforts to engage in peace talks.
After rumors swirled that fighting had broken out between the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the national government, TPLF spokeswoman Fesseha Asghedom Tessema told VOA that bombings took place in several areas.
“The Addis Ababa government has started bombing Tigray forces on different fronts beginning yesterday,” she said. “Therefore, I don’t see any progress towards any peaceful resolution; in fact, it looks like we are back to zero.”
The TPLF made similar comments in a written statement that accused the government of declaring war on the people of Tigray and committing genocide.
Asked to respond to TPLF claims of provocation by national forces, government spokesperson Billene Seyoum denied the accusation at a press briefing.
“This narrative and this rhetoric that keeps coming from the other side is no less than a mechanism to deflect from the desire not to engage in a peaceful manner,” Seyoum said. “But the humanitarian truce that had been enacted by the federal government is still in place.”
The spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.
If the claims of an attack are true, it would mark the end of the humanitarian cease-fire established in March between the two sides. The Ethiopian government had also been indicating peace talks with the TPLF might be imminent.
The TPLF has said repeatedly that talks will not go ahead until a humanitarian blockade, which the United Nations said has likely left parts of Tigray in a state of famine, is lifted.
William Davison, an analyst for Belgium-based research organization International Crisis Group, offered his assessment of the situation.
“This report of a skirmish from the Tigrayan side of a skirmish is worrying, it’s the first in a while,” he said. “At the moment the calculations seem to remain in place that the parties are going to pursue a negotiated solution, but certainly the situation remains highly volatile.”
In November 2020, the government launched a military offensive in Tigray in response to attacks by the TPLF.
An estimated 5.1 million people were displaced by the conflict in 2021. Ghent University in Belgium said up to a half million people have died because of the conflict, either in fighting or as a result of the humanitarian crisis it has caused.