Tigray forces begin handing over heavy weapons to Ethiopian army

ADDIS ABABA, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Tigray forces, which have fought a two-year war against Ethiopia’s federal government, began handing over heavy weapons to the national army on Tuesday as part of a process of peace led by the African Union.

The demobilization of Tigray forces is seen as a central element of the November 2 ceasefire agreement, alongside the restoration of services, the resumption of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, which have fought alongside the Ethiopian army but were not parties to the truce.

The conflict has created near-famine conditions for hundreds of thousands of Tigray residents, killed thousands and displaced millions in northern Ethiopia.

The transfer to the town of Agulae, about 30 km (18 miles) northeast of the regional capital Mekelle, was overseen by a monitoring team made up of members from both sides and a regional body, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

During the ceremony, the representative of the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), Mulugeta Gebrechristos, said that the start of disarmament would play a major role in restoring peace.

“We operate with the belief that if we want to have peace, all the things that open the door to provocation must not be there. Peace is vital for all of us,” Mulugeta said in a speech broadcast on Tigrai TV.

“We are all (part of) one Ethiopia. We and the TDF left our respective defensive positions in peace, understanding and love,” said Aleme Tadesse, a representative of the Ethiopian army.

Eritrean soldiers withdrew from several major towns in Tigray late last month but did not leave Tigray territory, according to locals. Eritrea declined to comment on whether the troops would leave.

Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Written by Hereward Holland; Editing by Aaron Ross and Bill Berkrot

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