Thousands of people demonstrated on Tuesday in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region to demand the return of people displaced by a two-year war there and the withdrawal of outside forces now that the conflict has ended.
The war between federal troops and their allies from neighbouring Eritrea and the Amhara region on one side and Tigrayan forces on the other, concluded with a truce last November after killing tens of thousands of people.
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Millions were forced from their homes, including hundreds of thousands from land disputed by Tigray and Amhara, whose security forces and fighters continue to occupy the area.
Eritrean troops – who are not mentioned in the truce – also remain inside Ethiopian territory in several border towns, according to humanitarian workers. Its government has declined to comment on the matter.
Demonstrators peacefully rallied on Tuesday in several major cities, including the regional capital, Mekelle, Adigrat and Shire. They held signs with slogans like “invaders must leave our homeland”, according to footage broadcast on Tigrai TV, which is controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party that runs Tigray.
Henok Hiluf, who took part in the protest in Mekelle, told the press that about 3,500 to 4,000 people were demonstrating there.
The peace deal has held since November, with both sides acknowledging progress in implementing key provisions. Tigrayan forces have begun disarming, an interim government has been set up and many basic services have been restored.
But Tigrayan authorities have complained about the continuing presence of the outside military forces. Last week, Getachew Reda, who leads the region’s interim government, said Eritrean forces had recently prevented a team monitoring implementation of the peace deal from carrying out their work.
Spokespeople for Eritrea and Ethiopia’s governments and the regional administration of Amhara did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
After the truce was signed last November, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised “to implement honestly what we have promised to make the peace sustainable,” while speaking to the national parliament.
The war, which pitted Abiy’s government against the TPLF, was rooted in old grievances between the political elites of ethnically based regions, built up over decades of violent regime change, territorial disputes between regions and long periods of authoritarian rule.