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Hiwot and her baby Girmay, who is malnourished and receiving support from the World Food Programme (WFP), rest at their home in the Naeder district of the Tigray region of Ethiopia in May
The war between Ethiopian government forces and Tigrayan rebels pushed parts of Tigray towards famine conditionsImage: Claire Nevill/WFP/AP Photo/picture alliance
ConflictsEthiopia

Fighting flares in Tigray after five-month lull

Isaac Kaledzi
August 26, 2022

Security analysts say strong global action is needed after fighting resumed in northern Ethiopia between government forces and Tigray rebels — scuppering a truce and dimming hopes for peace.

https://p.dw.com/p/4Fx5f

Conflict renews in Ethiopia

Ethiopians on Thursday expressed surprise at the renewed fighting between federal government forces and rebels in the country's Tigray region.

"It is very shocking. Something wrong is happening right now. The Ethiopian people were waiting to know where and when the peace negotiations takes place and by whom," one male resident told DW.

He is now disappointed at the turn of events and wondered why peace efforts have "turned into a war? Why is that? It's not good news."

The humanitarian crisis in the conflict-stricken region could now get worst in the coming weeks, according to African security expert, Adib Saani.

Saani told DW that he feared that the fighting in Tigray was "going to create a sense of desperation and it leads into the circle of violence."

The war in the Tigray region has displaced millions, creating famine conditions in parts of Tigray and the deaths of thousands of civilians.

"A lot of the locations are virtually in accessible due to bad roads or non-existence of roads," Saani said as he lamented the latest fighting would mean the deterioration of the situation for those in dire of need of humanitarian assistance.

Another male Ethiopian told DW that the renewed fighting won’t add much to Ethiopia’s economy "except to lose our beloved people."

"It is better if the government pushes for reconciliation and continues to agree. I lost my family members in this [Tigray] war previously," he said.

"My uncle who lost in the war, his family still does not know whether he died or not. Now [the new] another generation will end in another war. What is our profit from the war?"

Ethiopian refugees at Um Raquba refugee camp in Gedaref
Thousands of refugees from Tigray have fled to neighboring SudanImage: Hussein Ery/AFP

Blame game 

The two warring parties have blamed each other for the renewed fighting after some five months of cease fire.

Tigrayan forces had claimed the central government forces in Addis Ababa and militias aligned with them launched a "large-scale offensive" on Wednesday, a claim that the Ethiopian government has denied.

It has rather accused Tigray of rather sparking the new clashes by first initiating an offensive.

The head of the Peace and Security Division in the North Wollo Zone in the Amara Region, Colonel Hailemariam Ambaye, told DW that "There is a conflict. They [Tigray Defence Forces] were the first to come near the Kobo and triggered the area." 

Ethiopia: Tigray crisis tears town apart

Kobo is a town in northern Ethiopia, located in the Northern Wollo Zone of the Amhara Region.  

Ambaye said government-aligned forces "are only defending. They [TDF] are trying to inter in two directions. Our army did not attack."

Independently verifying the claims made by the two sides has been difficult due to the information blackout in that part of the country.

But Ambaye said "the government forces are defending them [TDF] from where they are positioned." 

The "large-scale offensive" now puts to an end to a months-old cease-fire that had held a fragile peace in the country.

Saani said, "the current fighting will make it very difficult for humanitarian aid to get to the people."

Map of Ethiopia

International condemnation

There has been international condemnation of the renewed fighting. A spokesperson from the US State Department, Vedant Patel, called on both sides to return to talks, hailing the success of the preceding five-month truce.

"We are concerned by reports of renewed hostilities in Ethiopia and we call on the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF to redouble efforts to advance talks to achieve a durable ceasefire without preconditions," Patel told reporters.

He added that the truce had "saved countless lives and enabled assistance to reach tens of thousands, and recent provocations on the battlefield and the lack of a durable ceasefire now threaten this progress."

When the TPLF and the Ethiopian government reached a truce five months ago after more than a year of a brutal war that began in November 2020, many were hoping that it would lead to a fruitful negotiation to end the war.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the TPLF have traded barbs while simultaneously raising the prospects for peace talks to bring the war to an end. 

People hold Ethiopian flags during a memorial service for the victims of the Tigray conflict
Ethiopians have expressed surprise at the renewed fighting in the Tigray regionImage: Eduardo Soteras/AFP

The two sides are unable to come to an agreement on who should lead the negotiations.

The TPLF is also demanding the restoration of basic services to the region's 6 million people prior to the start of any peace talks. 

Tigray has been without communications or banking services and imports of fuel are restricted which limits the amount of aid that can be brought into the region.

No commitment towards peace

A female Ethiopian questioned whether there was "any preparation for the peace negotiations?"

She told DW that "there was no indication or a report what the peace talks would look like. We were told that there are possibilities for peace negotiations. And now there are signs that another war has started overnight. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that there was already an opportunity to negotiate peace before."

Saani said the failure of both parties to be truthful and committed to ending the war is a challenge.

"No amount of talk can bring peace to the area unless all parties show the right level of commitment. Not just show it but demonstrate it and that is what is lacking," the security analyst explained.

Another male resident told DW that "even if the peace talks fail completely," he hoped that they can avoid war. 

Rape in the Ethiopian conflict

"COVID was beyond our control and it has hearted us seriously. Now Russia's Ukraine war has seriously affected our economy. I see that all these things have affected us and the war we have created with each other has created another headache for our country," he said.

According to Saani, the international community must impose an arms embargo that will prevent the movement of weapons to warring parties as he feared the absence of that would mean continued fighting.

"By now there should have been a united international arms embargo on the area because the more weapons, the more the warring parties become emboldened," he said.

He said the international community should take the conflict more seriously since the solution to the war goes beyond Ethiopia.

Saani said a more concerted approach would be to impose stiffer sanctions on both parties to make it very difficult to continue fighting.

"Targeted sanctions on some individuals would be a giant step in the right direction," he said.

Mohammed Negash, Seyoum Getu and Azeb-Tadesse Hahn contributed to this article.

Edited by: Keith Walker

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