Timeline: the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray

In June 2021, the rebels retake Mekele and push into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

War broke out in the northern Ethiopia nearly two years ago when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, backed by neighbouring Eritrea, ordered a military offensive against the ruling party in Tigray.

On Tuesday, South Africa said talks between the warring parties had begun in Pretoria, aimed at finding a “peaceful and sustainable solution” to the conflict.

Here is a timeline:

– November 2020: troops enter Tigray –

On November 4, 2020, Abiy launches military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a former guerrilla group that dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before he took power, and which he accuses of attacking federal army bases.

Eritrea, which fought a war with the TPLF from 1998 to 2000, sends troops into Tigray to help Ethiopian forces. 

Two weeks later, Tigray’s capital Mekele falls to government forces.

ALSO READ: Ethiopia says govt forces seize three towns in Tigray

– March 2021: ‘ethnic cleansing’ –

In March 2021, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks of “ethnic cleansing” in Tigray.

Abiy announces the departure of Eritrean forces.

– June 2021: Tigrayans advance – 

In June 2021, the rebels retake Mekele and push into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Abiy is sworn in for a new five-year term on October 4. In November, he announces a state of emergency and goes to the frontline to personally direct his troops in battle. 

A UN investigation warns of suspected crimes against humanity by all sides.

– December 2021: government gains –

In December government forces retake a string of towns, including capturing Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site home to 13th-century churches carved out of rock. The rebels withdraw from Amhara and Afar.

– March 2022: humanitarian truce –

In March, the government and rebels agree a truce to help accelerate delivery of emergency aid to the region. 

ALSO READ: Ethiopia vows to seize airports, other sites in Tigray

In June, the two sides agree to the prospect of peace talks but they fail to agree on who should act as mediator.

– August 2022: renewed fighting –

In late August, the truce falls apart as fighting resumes on Tigray’s southern border, with the rebels accusing Ethiopian and Eritrean forces of launching a major new offensive.

On September 11, Tigrayan authorities announce they are ready for a ceasefire and peace process mediated by the AU but the fighting continues.

On September 19, UN investigators say they suspect the government of “using starvation as a method of warfare” in Tigray.

– October 2022: peace talks –

On October 5, the government and rebels both say they have accepted an invitation to peace talks in South Africa but the talks never take place.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warns the situation “is spiralling out of control” as government forces take control of Shire and two other Tigrayan towns.

On October 20, the government says that the African Union has set a new date for talks.

On October 25, the South African presidency announces that peace talks have begun in the capital Pretoria. The discussions are scheduled to last until October 30.

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