Ethiopia – Tigray: Feuding parties sign cessation of hostilities, signalling end to 2-year war

By Fred Harter

Posted on Wednesday, 2 November 2022 18:58
Getachew Reda, Representative of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), speaks during a press conference regarding the African Union-led negotiations to resolve conflict in Ethiopia at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) offices in Pretoria on November 2, 2022. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE / AFP)

Ethiopia’s warring parties have signed a permanent cessation of hostilities in South Africa on Wednesday, signalling an end to the two year-long Tigray conflict.

The deal came after 10 days of negotiations overseen by a high-level African Union panel led by former Nigerian President Olusgen Obsanjao and supported by the United States, the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

In a statement, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the deal “is monumental in moving Ethiopia forward on the path of the reforms we embarked on four and [a] half years ago”.

Obasanjo said the parties had agreed to the “systematic, smooth and coordinated” disarmament of their forces, as well as to “unhindered humanitarian access” and the “restoration of services” to Tigray.

“This moment is not the end of the peace process, but the beginning of it” said Obasanjo while underlining that the implementation of the agreement was “critical to the success of the process.”

Ethiopian national security advisor Redwan Hussein, who led the government delegation, said the war had resulted in “immense” destruction and emphasised the need for both sides to follow through on the talks.

“We must be true to the letter and spirit of this agreement,” Redwan said.

Getachew Reda, Tigray’s lead negotiator, also emphasised the war’s human toll, saying it has cost “hundreds of thousands of lives” in Tigray. He called on the international community to “throw its weight” behind the ceasefire agreement and to assist with monitoring and implementation.

“It took haggling of several months for us to come together and explore opportunities for peace,” Getachew said.

Both sides accused of human rights abuses

The conflict in Tigray broke out two years ago this week and ranks as the deadliest on the continent. Last year, it spilled into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar and has caused widespread destruction to infrastructure.

Both sides have been accused of human rights abuses. Tigray has been mostly cut off from the rest of Ethiopia since the fighting erupted, with aid access restricted, leading a UN panel of human rights experts to conclude in a recent report that Ethiopia’s government has used “starvation as a weapon of war” against Tigray.

Humanitarian organisations are warning of an increasingly dire situation in Tigray, where at least 500,000 people have been uprooted by the recent fighting. Nutritional supplies have completely run out in the region, where a recent survey seen by The Africa Report found that 32% of children and 73% of lactating mothers were malnourished.

Eritrea has been deeply involved in the war, fighting alongside Ethiopia’s federal government in Tigray, where Eritrean troops have committed widespread human rights abuses, including rapes and gang rapes.

Eritrea is not participating in the talks and the parties did not refer to the country by name at the signing ceremony in South Africa.

In his statement Tigray lead negotiator Reda referred to the potential for “spoilers from nearby, from inside our ranks, from the neighbourhood” to thwart the agreement. “It is only through our collective resolve that we can hold these spoilers in check,” he added.

‘Chart a new course’

UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Hannah Tetteh, describes the 10-day long negotiations as “intense” and said the cessation of hostilities agreement was an opportunity for Ethiopian “to chart a new course.”

“This is the time for the international community to come together and support Ethiopia in its efforts to repair and replace damaged infrastructure, and rebuild and restore what has been lost, and we should be ready to make our contributions to this process,” says Tetteh.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was labelled a terrorist organisation by the government last year. There was no indication as to whether this designation would be removed during the ceremony on Wednesday.

Both the TPLF and the federal government issued a joint statement underlining their commitments to ending the conflict and delivering accountability for abuses.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres said the deal was a “welcome[d] first step”, according to his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. “It is very much a welcome[d] first step, which we hope can start to bring some solace to the millions of Ethiopian civilians that have really suffered during this conflict,” Dujarric told reporters in New York.

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