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Will Ethiopia's shaky Tigray truce hold?

November 8, 2022

Mediators are hoping that fresh talks in Nairobi this week will strengthen ongoing efforts to end hostilities. On the ground, though, much work still needs to be done.

Man holding Ethiopian national flags during a pro-government rally
Ethiopians are hoping the ceasefire deal will lead to a permanent peace resolutionImage: Tiksa Negeri/REUTERS

There is a renewed effort by mediators from the African Union to ensure that last week's ceasefire agreement to end Ethiopia's Tigray conflict holds as fresh talks take place in Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Past failures to ensure previous truces held have forced representatives from the warring parties to recommit to a new round of talks on Monday. They are expected to last between three to four days.

The peace deal that the Ethiopian government reached with Tigrayan rebel forces was mediated by the African Union in South Africa. It seeks to end a two-year conflict that has caused a humanitarian crisis in the region with a population of 6 million.

But the agreement came with several conditions requiring implementation for lasting peace.

Implementing the ceasefire thus still looks challenging due to concerns over skirmishes since agreement was reached last week.

AU mediators Olusegun Obasanjo and Uhuru Kenyatta stand and hold hands
AU mediators Olusegun Obasanjo and Uhuru Kenyatta are leading efforts to end the Tigray conflictImage: African Union

Implementing the truce

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, an AU co-mediator, said he hoped the parties would work together to create a permanent resolution.

"We started in Pretoria [South Africa's capital city], we are inching our way closer. We are now in Nairobi [Kenya's capital], we are very hopeful next time we will be in Mekelle [Tigray regional capital] for our [next] meeting and ultimately celebrate together in Addis Ababa [Ethiopia's capital]," Kenyatta said.

The parties had agreed last week that the government of Ethiopia would collaborate with "humanitarian agencies to continue expediting aid to all those in need of assistance."

The deal also stipulated that Ethiopian and Tigrayan forces "stop all forms of conflicts, and hostile propaganda."

According to the agreement, a program of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the TPLF combatants into the national defense force is to take place.

This week's talk is to help parties discuss how to begin implementing the ceasefire.

"The first sign for me of the progress after the signing of the agreement is the fact that between them they have exchanged a hotline," AU chief mediator Olusegun Obasanjo told reporters in Nairobi.

Map of Ethiopia and neighboring countries


The hotline addresses any renewed hostilities and coordinates disengagements to ensure the ceasefire holds.

Commitments from warring parties

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's national security adviser and lead negotiator, Redwan Hussein, told a news conference that efforts are being made to send humanitarian support to those affected.

"We have to quickly reconnect services ... telecom, energy and banking services, but before that our people need food and medicines and for that we are trying to expediate [that]," Hussein said.

Getachew Reda, the spokesman for the Tigray authorities, also told reporters that his side is committed to respecting the ceasefire agreement but stressed the need to restore vital services to the region.

Men carry a sack of wheat during a food distribution by the World Food Program (WFP) for internally displaced people (IDP)
The warring sides agree there is need for a speedy humanitarian operation in TigrayImage: Amanuel Sileshi/AFP

"There are a number of things that need to be done, which are stipulated in our agreement. The provision of services and the more services there are, the more confident that is and the more hope and expectation it is in the people's minds, and that would further consolidate the peace that we are trying to put in place," Reda said.

The Ethiopian government's lead negotiator, Redwan Hussein, said on Twitter that the Nairobi meetings would ensure "safety & expedite humanitarian flow to areas hitherto inaccessible."

"Peace is what our people need more than anything. Whether we will deliver on our promise in a manner that satisfies our people, time will tell," he said on Twitter.

"We are fighting not because we are a trigger-happy nation but because our survival as a people is at stake. If a peace agreement can ensure our survival, why not give it a try?"

Disarming Tigray fighters

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the party dominating the region, has already agreed to disarm its fighters within 30 days.

"The fact that they are here gives hope that the progress that we expect will be achieved. I believe success is assured," chief mediator Obasanjo said.

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

The TPLF had dominated Ethiopia's 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 sign peace deal

Edited by: Chrispin Mwakideu