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Nearly 1,500 IDPs return to Tigray’s Tselemti district ‘cautiously’ despite lingering fears

Recently, close to 1,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have repatriated to Tigray’s Tselemti district (Photo: Dimtsi Weyane)

Addis Abeba – Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have started to return to their villages in the Tselemti district, situated in the North Western Zone of the Tigray region.

In an interview with Addis Standard, Tadele Mengistu, a member of the returnees’ committee overseeing the transportation of IDPs, stated that despite the lengthy journey and substantial challenges faced during the overall repatriation process, 1,456 selected IDPs successfully returned to their homes on June 29, 2024.

Tadele confirmed that IDPs have returned to the Mai Aini, Mai Anbesa, Madhanealem, and Wuhedat kebeles.

The scheduled transport of additional returnees to six kebeles, including Maitsebri, on June 30, 2024, was not completed at the time of this report compilation, as confirmed by Tadele.

Tadele indicated that the return of a portion of IDPs provides a sign of optimism, but it constitutes a minor fraction of the estimated total of 80,000 IDPs from northwestern Tigray. He further specified that the total number of returnees to Tselemti district from the first batch is between 8,500 and 10,000.

Despite the return of the first group, returnees have expressed concerns regarding safety, the lack of basic necessities in their hometowns, and the challenges associated with rebuilding their lives.

According to Tadele, these concerns necessitate governmental intervention.

“The returnees were offered a one-month ration upon their return by the Tigray interim administration and NGOs,” Tadele added.

As reported by Tadele, the Amhara regional government-appointed administration, along with its associated security forces, vacated the area three days before the returnees’ arrival. “Currently, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) maintains control of the area.”

While residents warmly welcomed them back, returnees in Tselemti expressed cautious optimism due to lingering worries about the presence of armed groups in the area.

One returnee, who spent the last three years in an IDP shelter, spoke to Addis Standard on condition of anonymity. He described a mix of emotions, saying he was both happy to be home and apprehensive about his safety.

Tadele acknowledged these anxieties.

“Returnees are worried about the potential presence of disarmed Amhara militants who may not have fully left the area,” he explained. “Beyond the joy of returning home, they face uncertainties about damaged houses and other challenges.”

He further emphasizes concerns among returnees regarding the perceived lack of urgency from humanitarian organizations and the government in ensuring their safe return and successful reintegration.

“A comprehensive and expedited approach is crucial for a successful IDP repatriation program, which is vital for lasting peace in Tigray,” Tadele added. “Only when people feel safe and supported can the region begin to heal and rebuild.”

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.

This plan outlined 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.

IDPs in Tigray have consistently advocated for their return home through public demonstrations.

Last year, Addis Standard reported that hundreds of displaced people residing within the region staged large-scale protests in key urban centers. These demonstrations called for a two-fold solution: the resumption of suspended humanitarian aid and the facilitation of their safe return to their homes.

The protests unfolded in Mekelle, the regional capital, as well as in Adigrat, Shire, Abyi Adi, and other major cities. AS

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