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Women crossing a street
Mekele is a city of around 300,000 peopleImage: Million Haileselassie/DW
ConflictsEthiopia

Ethiopia: Tigray after the peace deal

Million Haileselassie | Yohannes Gebre Egziabher
November 25, 2022

Mekele, the capital of Tigray, is in economic ruin and residents are plagued by hunger and disease. The recent peace deal signed by the federal government and Tigray rebels has brought hope.

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Before the war came to Tigray, it used to be a ritual to greet the morning by looking up to the perennial clear blue sky over this northern province of Ethiopia.

Dr. Kibrom Gebreselassie, the chief executive director of the Ayder Referral Hospital in the capital Mekele, was unable to so for two years.

"When you left your house, the first thing you did was look at the sky," he told DW.

The hospital has struggled to provide even the most basic health care to patients, Kibrom said.

"A beautiful clear sky meant death because we were expecting drones that day."

People seated on the floor of a hospital in northern Ethiopia
Patients at Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekele, Tigray, in July 2021Image: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Residents scarred and scared

For the overworked doctors at the understaffed facility, Dr. Kibrom Gebresilase says, clear skies meant "they [the federal army] will bombard Mekele and more people will die, will get traumatized."

The peace agreement struck between Ethiopia's federal government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in South Africa on November 2, 2022, and the subsequent roadmap agreed between the top military brass of the two sides in Kenya, have brought hope to Tigray.

Residents who experienced violence at the hands of Ethiopian federal forces, the Eritrean army and Amhara militias, however, are scarred and scared. 

A poster for a civil society workshop
Ethiopia's Council of Civil Society Organizations has called for a full implementation of the peace dealImage: Solomon Muchie/DW

'Peace is a precondition for everything'

Communication lines are still down in Mekele, where civil servant Solomon Tsige lives, and in the rest of the region. Solomon said he has not received a salary in two years because of the war.

"Peace is a precondition for everything," he told DW. "I am happy about the peace agreement. We now hope to be able to re-engage in economic activities, to reestablish banking, transport and other services to benefit the people."

Commander-in-Chief of the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) General Tadesse Werede told journalists in Mekele about the peace agreement for the first time this week. In his words, the deal is a "pathway for lasting peace" 

 The World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday said aid deliveries into Tigray were "not matching the needs" of the stricken region even as a ceasefire takes hold in war-torn northern Ethiopia.

Restoring aid deliveries to Tigray was a key part of the peace deal. The WFP said all four road corridors into Tigray had reopened since the ceasefire and humanitarian flights were flying into major cities.

 "However, deliveries of assistance within Tigray are not matching the needs and WFP and its cooperating partners urgently need access to all parts of the region," according to a statement by the UN agency.

No transport, internet or banking services 

A grouping of 72 independent Tigray-based non-government organizations (NGOs) support the peace deal between the federal government and TPLF. The deal would help victims of the war access humanitarian aid and health care, the Tigray Civil Society Consortium said.

"We expect the two parties to fulfill their promise. Our people have lived in pain for more than two years. We believe political differences should be solved around a table. Reaching an agreement is one thing but the agreement should be implemented," the consortium's executive director, Yared Berhe, told journalists in Tigray. 

"As for their peace agreement, they have to work for peace, they should allow people to live in peace."

Ethiopia belligerents agree to open Tigray to aid

Daniel Mekonnen, the deputy head of the Tigray Investment Commission, said one of the first steps needed once peace is implemented would be to rebuild infrastructure and businesses. 

"There is no air transportation. Those investors who were exporting their products and the Tigray Endowment Fund factories, like Addis Pharmaceuticals and Adwa Textiles, need transportation. A lot of factories were exporting their products to different parts of the world," he told DW.

"Now it is impossible without internet connections and businesses need banking services. Those factories that benefited from bank loans are now destroyed. So they need special policy-based support."

Edited by: Benita van Eyssen

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