ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The International Committee of the Red Cross said a convoy of trucks carrying medicine arrived in Tigray’s regional capital Mekele on Tuesday, the first aid delivery by the group to the embattled region since August.
“It is an enormous relief for us to deliver this cargo,” said Nicolas Von Arx, the ICRC head of delegation in Ethiopia. “The health care system in the region is under extreme pressure and these deliveries are a lifeline for people who need medical help.”
The trucks delivered 40 tons of “essential medical items, emergency medicines and surgical equipment,” the ICRC said in a statement.
Military leaders from the warring sides on Saturday signed an accord in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, to implement a truce signed in South Africa earlier this month. It commits the parties to facilitate “unhindered” humanitarian access to Tigray, home to more than 5 million people, after more than two years of aid restrictions.
The cease-fire agreement has been hailed as an opportunity to end the Tigray war, which U.S. diplomats say has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed earlier on Tuesday said the future status of disputed territory in the western part of Tigray will be settled according to the country’s constitution following the truce with Tigray’s leaders.
Abiy told lawmakers that the future of the region will be resolved aside from the cease-fire deal.
“We went to South Africa not to decide to have Wolkait in Amhara or Tigray, the Pretoria (agreement) has not that power … We agreed we should solve it based on Ethiopian law and system,” he said.
He hinted a referendum would be held to settle the matter after displaced people return to Wolkait. “People should be given the chance…to get democratic opportunities,” he said. “Only through that we can get a solution.”
Western Tigray, also known as Wolkait, is part of Tigray under Ethiopia’s constitution. But it was occupied by forces from the neighbouring Amhara state when war broke out in November 2020 between the federal army and fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF.
Wolkait’s status is hotly contested, with many in Amhara asserting the area was taken from them during the 27 years when the TPLF headed a governing coalition in Ethiopia.
Hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans were evicted from western Tigray during the Tigray conflict, leading to charges of “ethnic cleansing” from the U.S. State Department, and there have been massacres of both Tigrayans and Amharas in the region.
The war has resulted in widespread damage to infrastructure, with Ethiopia’s finance minister estimating the country will need nearly $20 billion to rebuild.