The Ethiopian parliament on Tuesday (February 15th) lifted the state of emergency imposed in November, when Tigrayan rebels threatened to march on Addis Ababa.

"The Ethiopian House of Deputies today approved the lifting of the state of emergency imposed for six months," the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry tweeted, three months ahead of schedule.

The vote by Ethiopian MPs followed a proposal by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's cabinet to ease the wartime state of emergency initially imposed until May.

Of the 312 lawmakers present, 63 voted against the executive order, while 21 abstained.

A state of emergency was declared on November 2 when fighters from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) had just seized two strategic towns on the road to the Ethiopian capital.

Under the state of emergency, mass arrests of Tigrayans had been carried out in Addis Ababa and the rest of the country, triggering a series of condemnations from international human rights organisations.

It was not immediately clear whether and when those detained under the state of emergency would be released.

The state of emergency also coincided with a campaign of general mobilization and shelling that eventually pushed rebel forces back towards Tigray, raising hopes that the fighting would end.

In December, Addis Ababa announced that the army would not pursue them there, but several drone strikes hit Tigray in the following weeks.

At the end of January, the TPLF announced that it had resumed fighting in the neighboring region of Afar, after attacks according to it by pro-government forces on its positions.

Blockade of humanitarian aid

The conflict has left several thousand dead, more than two million displaced and plunged hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians into conditions close to starvation, according to the United Nations.

Tigray has for several months been subjected to what the UN describes as a "de facto blockade" of humanitarian aid, with each side taking responsibility for it.

Washington accuses the government of blocking aid, while Addis Ababa blames the situation on rebel incursions.

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield was expected in Ethiopia earlier this week to meet with government officials and NGO representatives.

The World Food Program (WFP) estimated in January that nearly 40% of Tigray's population suffered from "extreme food shortages".

The WFP said international humanitarian NGOs operating in the area are running out of fuel and forced to provide assistance on foot to malnourished civilians.

On Friday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said that humanitarian operations were almost interrupted due to these shortages.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization launched a new call for "unlimited access" to Tigray, stressing that it had sent vital medical supplies to Mekele, the regional capital - a first since July - but that the shortage of fuel prevented their distribution.

Abiy Ahmed, Nobel Peace Prize 2019, sent the federal army to Tigray in November 2020, to dismiss the regional authorities from the TPLF, who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked military bases.

With many twists and turns, the fighting then spread to the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.

With AFP

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