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Cease-fire agreed to stop Ethiopia's Tigray conflict

November 3, 2022

After previous truces failed, there is cautious optimism about the latest deal meant to end a two-year conflict that has caused a humanitarian crisis.

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta applauds Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien and Tigray delegate Getachew Reda
The deal stipulates that the two sides have agreed to 'stop all forms of conflicts, and hostile propaganda.'Image: SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

All warring parties involved in the conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region must now show strong commitment towards achieving long lasting peace, security and political analysts have advised.

Ethiopia's government forces on Wednesday reached a truce with rebel Tigrayan forces, mediated in South Africa by the African Union (AU) .

The deal is meant to end a two-year conflict that has caused a humanitarian crisis in the region with a population of 6 million.

A previous five-month cease-fire between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces broke down in August, leading to fresh clashes.

In a joint statement, both sides said they "agreed to permanently silence the guns and end" the conflict, something that has been welcomed around the world.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that he welcomed "the signing of a cessation of hostilities between the government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People's Liberation Front."

Blinken commended the African Union "for its extraordinary efforts to bring peace to northern Ethiopia."

"The accord struck in South Africa is an important first step," said Ludger Schadomsky, head of DW's Amharic service, but cautioned that "as the mediators have rightly pointed put: The devil is now in the implementation."

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had sent government troops into Tigray in November 2020 after accusing the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) of attacking military camps.

The TPLF had dominated Ethiopia's ruling political alliance for decades before Abiy took power in 2018.

The ensuing conflict has killed thousands of civilians, uprooted millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

Ethiopia's warring parties agree to peace deal

What did they agree on?

In order to end two years of misery for ordinary Ethiopians, the parties agreed that the "government of Ethiopia will further enhance its collaboration with humanitarian agencies to continue expediting aid to all those in need of assistance."

Both sides had pitted their strengths against each other for the past two years. The latest deal stipulates that the two forces have agreed to "stop all forms of conflicts, and hostile propaganda."

There would be a "program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration for the TPLF combatants into the national defense force," according to the joint statement.

Again, the parties intend implementing "transitional measures that include the restoration of constitutional order in the Tigray region, a framework for the settlement of political differences, and a Transitional Justice Policy framework to ensure accountability, truth, reconciliation, and healing."

The conflict cut off Tigray's communications and transport links, which severely impacted the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia's northernmost region.

The agreement noted that Ethiopian government "will continue the efforts to restore public services and rebuild the infrastructures of all communities affected by the conflict."

The speed at which aid deliveries can be restored to the region after the truce is not yet clear but there is a call for students to go to school, "farmers, and pastoralists to their fields, and public servants to their offices."

Olusegun Obasanjo, a member of the African Union negotiating team, said at the signing of the deal that "today is the beginning of the new dawn for Ethiopia, for the Horn of Africa and indeed for Africa as a whole."

Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa held a demonstration in front of the US Embassy to call for a long-lasting solution for the northern Ethiopia war
Tigrayans living in Addis Ababa has called on the US for a long-lasting solution for the Tigray conflictImage: Seyum Getu/DW

Cautious optimism

Despite both parties saying the latest truce provides "a new and hopeful chapter in the history of the country," some analysts are cautiously optimistic.

Solomon Tefera, Political Science Teacher in Ambo University, Oromia region, told DW that to ensure a lasting peace there must be transparency in implementing details of the deal.

"To ensure sustainable peace across the country, the Ethiopian government must open the door for discussion with all opponents and groups especially in Oromia to achieve the peace process."

He asked that room is made for activists, scholars and other interested parties to contribute towards achieving peace in the country.

"I think that it is good that the killing will stop, we welcome that but there are a lot of major outstanding issues yet unanswered," Professor Merera Gudina, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) Party Chairman said in an interview with DW.

He said he is concerned about the absence of a framework on the kinds of dialogues that would take place which would be all inclusive for achieving peace.

"Let us see how it [the peace deal] will be implemented," Gudina noted while demanding that the entire Ethiopian population is carried along during the process.

A civil servant from Tigray, Dawit Geberemichel, who is hopeful the latest truce will be key in resolving the conflict, told DW he had some doubts.

"How secure is the peace agreement? Because we have had experiences that promised things that were not fulfilled. For this reason, we have doubts about its implementation," he said.

The unresolved Eritrean factor

During the war, the Ethiopian national defense forces have had support from neighboring Eritrea.

While peace talks were taking place in South Africa, Ethiopian government troops backed by the Eritrean army waged artillery bombardments and air strikes, capturing a string of towns from the rebels.

There was no mention by the AU mediators with regard to such calls from international community and Tigrayan forces for Eritrea's army to withdraw from the battlefield.

"The case of Eritrea has not been raised in the agreement," Geberemichel told DW.

"The Eritrean soldier committed many atrocities, killings of people in Ethiopia-Tigray. Therefore, we have doubts how the agreement will be fulfilled," he added.

DW's Schadomsky agreed on the subject of Eritrea's place in the conflict and the latest deal.

"The main obstacle to a lasting solution is the absence of the main aggressor, Eritrea, from the agreement," he said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who has welcomed the truce, is calling on Eritrea to "lay down its arms & withdraw."

Naomi Kikoler, a strategist on mass atrocity prevention, told Reuters that ensuring the agreement's implementation will require "the departure of Eritrean forces, whose government was not part of the negotiations," describing that element as "critical."

Assurances from warring parties

The head of the government team, Abiy's national security adviser, Redwan Hussein, praised both sides for their "constructive engagement to allow the country to put this tragic period of conflict behind us."

"It is now for all of us to honor this agreement, we must be through to the letter in the spirit of this agreement," Hussein said. 

"The people of Ethiopia expected more than the text of this agreement. They demand peace and harmony, they desire development, they have chatted a promising hand, bright future."

He assured that "the government on its part will take various proactive measures to nurture democracy and inclusive development in the country."

Getachew Reda, TPLF representative is also hopeful.

"So, I hope our efforts to silence the guns will be followed through in earnest. And our people deserve all peace in the world, and we need to rebuild communities, which have already been shuttered," Reda said.

He assured that the TPLF is "ready to do everything, to make sure that no effort on the part of spoilers will set us back [on our commitment for peace]."

Humanitarian situation

Before last month's peace talks, the United Nations had said that the level of need in Ethiopia was "staggering".

It said even before hostilities resumed in August this year, 13 million people needed food and other support across Tigray and its neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Alyona Synenko, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in East Africa, told DW that since August when the fighting resumed it has been difficult getting access to the conflict zone to assist civilians.

"After two years of conflict the humanitarian needs are very high," she said noting that replenishing their stock of supplies hasn't happened since fighting resumed in August.

"All the areas of life have been affected," Synenko said, highlighting the challenges civilians face in accessing food, medical care, and clean water.

Synenko explained though that "this positive development [the truce] will allow us to deliver much needed humanitarian supplies to people in Tigray and other areas of the north."

The Red Cross spokesperson however said the implementation of the deal will be crucial if any success is to be realized on the ground in terms of humanitarian aid.

Million Haileselassie, Abu-Bakarr Jalloh and Seyoum Getu Hailu contributed to this article.
Edited by: Keith Walker

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