Ethiopia Takes Tigray Party Off Terror List After Cease-Fire

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopian lawmakers agreed to remove the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s designation as a terrorist group, following a cease-fire signed four months ago to end a civil war.

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The House of People’s Representatives declared the TPLF a terrorist organization in May 2021, six months after its forces and federal troops began fighting in the northern Tigray region. The conflict drew in neighboring Eritrea and spilled over into Sudan. Almost 300,000 civilians died as a result of the two-year war, according to researchers at Ghent University in Belgium who’ve been monitoring the fallout.

Parliament approved a resolution to declassify the TPLF as a terrorist organization on Wednesday, the latest sign that a Nov. 2 peace deal brokered by the African Union is likely to hold. Dissident forces began handing over heavy weapons to the national army at the start of the year.

The TPLF led a rebel alliance that toppled Ethiopia’s Marxist military rulers in 1991 and it dominated the government until it was sidelined by newly installed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in 2018. It continued to rule Tigray and a series of disagreements with federal authorities culminated in a full-blown war. A transitional administration headed by Getachew Reda currently oversees the region.

Read more: The Two-Year Conflict That’s Torn Ethiopia Apart: QuickTake

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ethiopia last week, met government and TPLF officials and announced $331 million of additional humanitarian assistance for Ethiopia.

On March 20, the US State Department said it had determined that all groups involved in the conflict had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. It specifically named the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, TPLF and fighters from the Amhara region.

“Recognizing the atrocities committed by all parties is an essential step to achieving a sustainable peace,” Blinken said. “Those most responsible for atrocities, including those in positions of command, must be held accountable.”

Ethiopian and Eritrean officials dismissed the US findings, which echo those of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Ethiopia needs to resolve an impasse with the US over investigations into alleged war-era abuses to potentially unlock support for an International Monetary Fund program.

Read more: S&P Sees Ethiopia IMF Deal in Reach, Paving Way for Debt Relief

--With assistance from Gordon Bell.

(Updates with details of conflict starting in second paragraph.)

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