The Ethiopian government said Thursday it has appointed a top official in the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) as head of an interim administration for Tigray, the latest confidence building measure under their landmark peace deal.

The announcement comes just a day after parliament removed the TPLF from an official list of terrorist organisations, a move it said would help bolster the November 2022 agreement that ended the brutal two-year war between the rebels and pro-government forces.

"Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has appointed Getachew Reda as president of the Tigray region's interim administration," Abiy's office said in a statement posted on Twitter.

The formation of a transitional government for Ethiopia's northernmost region and the delisting of the TPLF as a terrorist group were among the key provisions of the peace deal signed in South Africa's capital Pretoria.

The agreement had stipulated the establishment of an "inclusive" interim regional administration until elections can be held.

The TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades until Abiy took office in 2018, had been officially designated a terrorist organisation in May 2021, six months after the Tigray war began.

- 'Key steppingstone' -

"By regularising the TPLF as a political body, Addis has tacitly shown support for the proposed interim administration in Tigray and the reintegration of TPLF members into national politics," said Connor Vasey, Africa analyst for the Eurasia Group.


Tigray peace deal ends two-year conflict / © AFP

"The formation of an interim administration is a key steppingstone to further rounds of disarmament and confidence building among government financiers, including the IMF and World Bank," he added in a note.

Getachew, adviser to TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, also once served as communications minister in the federal government under prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn who governed from 2012 to 2018.

The public face of the TPLF, Getachew signed the African Union-brokered deal in Pretoria along with Abiy's national security adviser Redwan Hussein.

The war began in November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF after accusing its fighters of attacking federal military bases.

During the conflict, the rebels briefly came close to marching on the capital Addis Ababa but were beaten back by forces loyal to Abiy.

- War crimes -

Under the agreement, the TPLF agreed to disarm in return for the restoration of access to Tigray, which was largely cut off from the outside world during the war.

Since then, there has been some resumption of basic services and aid deliveries to Tigray, which has faced dire shortages of food, fuel, cash and medicines.

Access to the region of six million people remains restricted, and it is impossible to verify independently the situation on the ground.


Getachew (right) signed the November 2022 peace deal with Ethiopian govenrment representative Redwan Hussein / © AFP/File

The conflict, one of the deadliest of the 21st century, has displaced more than two million people and left millions more in need of humanitarian aid.

Estimates of casualties vary widely, with the United States saying that as many as half a million people have died -- exceeding the toll from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The war in Africa's second most populous country also tarnished the reputation of Abiy, a Nobel Peace laureate, and soured Ethiopia's ties with the West including its longtime ally the United States.

Washington on Monday accused all parties to the conflict of committing war crimes but singled out Ethiopian, Eritrean and regional Amhara forces for crimes against humanity, without mentioning the TPLF.

On a visit to Addis Ababa last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new humanitarian aid worth more than $331 million to Ethiopia, which is also grappling with a record drought in its southern and southeastern regions.

But Washington has made no commitments to allowing Ethiopia to return to the African Growth and Opportunity Act, US legislation that gave it duty-free access for most products to the world's largest economy.