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News: Nearly 2,200 second batch IDPs return to Tselemti after three-day impasse 

A total of 3,700 IDPs have returned to Tselemti Woreda in Northwestern Tigray zone (Photo: Addis Standard Sources)

Addis Abeba – Nearly 2,200 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to Tselemti district in North Western Zone of Tigray, on Wednesday, after a three-day delay caused by disagreements between elders from Amhara region and Tigrayan officials responsible for returning the IDPs.

The first batch of 1,500 IDPs were successfully returned to their homes in the district on June 29, 2024. The stalemate which lasted for several days regarding the return of the second batch of IDPs was due to concerns about disarmament of returning militia members. 

Mulat Mekonnen, coordinator of IDPs from North Western Tigray told Addis Standard that the “elders” from Amhara region appointed  to oversee the safe return of IDPs along with ENDF personnel, demanded the disarmament of any militia accompanying the IDPs.

He explained that the disagreement stemmed from misinterpreting the agreement between federal, Tigray, and Amhara authorities.

According to Mulat, “the agreement allowed for the return of militias who were present in the area before the start of the war, with their weapons. However, they [the elders] raised security concerns if the militias returned with their weapons”.

Tadele Mengistu, head of the transport bureau of the Tigray Interim Administration, wrote on Facebook, confirming the delay of the return of the second batch of IDPs. He stated that the biggest challenge faced over the last three days “wasn’t a lack of effort, but of engagement.”

A total of 80,000 IDPs are expected to return to the Northwestern Tigray zone, out of which between 8,500 and 10,000 are scheduled to return to Tselemti Wereda.

Despite the successful return of the second batch of IDPs to Tselemti, totaling 3,700 individuals, anxiety stemming from the presence of  non-ENDF forces in the area,  lack of proper shelter due to houses either damaged or occupied by others, as well as shortages of support, remain high.

In May 2024, Lieutenant General Tadesse Werede, vice president of the Tigray interim administration, announced the details of a mutually agreed-upon plan between the Tigray interim administration and the federal government, outlining the timeframe for the return of IDPs to their homes in southern and western Tigray.

According to the agreement, IDPs would be resettled in Southern Tigray by early June 2024 and in Western Tigray by early July 2024.

Until recently, hundreds of thousands of people displaced from Western and Southern parts of Tigray over which the Amhara region has had a long lasting claim remain in IDP camps in different parts of Tigray amidst dire situations

These areas came under the control of the Amhara forces within weeks of the outbreak of the Tigray war in November 2020, and remained under their occupation even after the war was ended through a negotiated settlement two years later.

Authorities in Tigray have been asking the federal government to enforce the withdrawal of the Amhara forces from the Tigray regional state territories on the account of the Pretoria peace deal which states for “contested areas” to be resolved constitutionally.

Rights groups have been accusing security forces and the local administration assigned by the Amhara region particularly in Western Tigray of committing ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans. AS

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