Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Eritrean forces would leave Tigray, three days after acknowledging their presence and amid reports of massacres and widespread sexual violence.
But residents of some Tigray towns and cities continued to report the presence of Eritrean soldiers in recent days, and the Group of Seven said in a statement released Friday that their exit “must be swift, unconditional and verifiable.”
In response, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday evening that the process had begun. “As announced last week, the Eritrean forces that crossed the border (…) began to withdraw,” she said in a statement, adding that the Ethiopian army “has now taken over guarding the national borders.”
The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced the dispatch of the federal army to Tigray to arrest and disarm the leaders of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, the ruling party in the region, and Abiy Ahmed accused the front of launching attacks on army camps.
The federal forces were supported by forces from its northern neighbor, Eritrea, and from the forces of the Ethiopian Amhara region, which borders Tigray from the south, and Abiy Ahmed declared victory on November 28, after controlling the regional capital, Mekele.
Addis Ababa has long denied the presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray, despite the assurances of residents, organizations, diplomats and local officials, before Abiy Ahmed acknowledged their presence and declared before Parliament that they must withdraw from the region.
The Eritrean forces are accused of committing atrocities in Tigray, including massacres, rape, looting and others, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch confirm that they have killed hundreds of civilians in the city of Axum. The French Press Agency also documented a massacre allegedly committed by Eritrean forces in the city of Dongolat last November.