Ethiopia’s Largest Bank Says Tigray Services Resume

The Commercial Bank of Ethiopia said Monday that it has resumed financial services in some towns in the war-torn region of Tigray, enabling residents to access their funds after a shutdown lasting more than a year.

The announcement follows the signing of a peace deal between the federal government and Tigrayan rebels last month, aimed at ending the brutal two-year conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Ethiopia.

“Following the peace agreement reached recently, the (CBE) branches we have in Shire, Alamata and Korem cities have started receiving money sent from abroad and locally as well as depositing money,” the country’s largest bank said in a statement.

“Our bank was forced to suspend its banking services because of the instability in the northern part of the country,” the statement said.

“Conditions permitting we will continue with our efforts to expand our services and step-by-step restart services in all branches.”

Access to northern Ethiopia is severely restricted and Tigray has been under a communications blackout for more than a year, making it impossible for journalists to independently verify the situation on the ground.

– Humanitarian disaster –

Since the November 2 peace agreement inked in South Africa, fighting between federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front has ceased, with the TPLF saying that 65 percent of its forces have “disengaged” from battle lines.

Earlier this month, the country’s electricity operator announced that the capital of Tigray had been reconnected to the national power grid after more than a year of cuts caused by the conflict.

The war left Tigray devastated and lacking access to basic services including banking, electricity, fuel and communications for more than a year.

Humanitarian aid has trickled into the north since the agreement but remains well short of meeting the population’s acute needs.

The death toll resulting from the war is unclear, but the International Crisis Group think-tank and Amnesty International have described it as one of the bloodiest in the world.

All sides have been accused of abuses, while the United Nations says the conflict has displaced more than two million people and driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.

The peace deal is aimed at ending the hostilities, disarming Tigrayan fighters, restoring federal government authority and reopening access to the region.

But the agreement makes no mention about the withdrawal of Eritrean forces, who have backed Ethiopia’s government during the conflict and been accused of horrific abuses.

Since the truce was agreed, the TPLF has regularly denounced Eritrean troops for allegedly committing human rights violations in Tigray.

According to the UN World Food Programme, more than 13 million people in northern Ethiopia now depend on humanitarian aid, including more than 90 percent of Tigray’s population of six million.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Ethiopia’s northernmost region in November 2020, accusing the TPLF, then the regional ruling party, of attacking federal army camps.

The TPLF dominated politics in the Horn of Africa nation for nearly three decades before Nobel Peace Prize laureate Abiy took office in 2018.