Ethiopia & Tigray rebels sign aid and disarmament deal

By Fred Harter

Posted on Monday, 14 November 2022 15:24
In this file photo taken on February 26, 2021 A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray
In this file photo taken on February 26, 2021 A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray. - Tigrayan rebels agreed to a "cessation of hostilities" on February 25, 2022, a new turning point in the nearly 17-month war in northern Ethiopia following the government's announcement of an indefinite humanitarian truce a day earlier. The rebels said in a statement sent to AFP early on March 25, 2022 that they were "committed to implementing a cessation of hostilities effective immediately," and urged Ethiopian authorities to hasten delivery of emergency aid into Tigray, where hundreds of thousands face starvation. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

Ethiopia’s federal government and rebels from Tigray have signed an agreement to allow aid to the northern region and disarmament of fighters.

Military leaders from both sides signed the accord at a ceremony in Nairobi on Saturday, following several days of technical talks on the implementation of a ceasefire struck earlier this month in South Africa.

According to the text of the agreement, the disarmament of Tigray’s heavy weapons “will be done concurrently with the withdrawal of foreign and non-federal forces” – a nod to the presence of Eritrean and Amhara militias in Tigray.

As part of the deal, the parties will establish a joint committee tasked with producing a plan for the “disarmament of light weapons”. They also agreed to end attacks against civilians, facilitate “unhindered humanitarian access” and provide security guarantees for aid workers.

A monitoring and verification team, led by the African Union, will be deployed to Tigray within ten days.

“We will fully dedicate ourselves to implementing the Pretoria agreement and this declaration,” says Birhanu Jula, the chief of staff of Ethiopia’s armed forces, who attended the talks on behalf of the federal government.

A statement from the African Union (AU) Commission says it “applauds the parties on these significant confidence-building measures and encourages them to continue towards the full implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, as part of overall efforts to end the conflict and restore peace, security and stability in Ethiopia”.

The spokesperson for the US State Department, Ned Price, has also commended the agreement. “We welcome the humanitarian access permissions that have already been restored as well as the firm commitments for humanitarian assistance to flow to the Tigray Region and the affected areas of the Afar and Amhara Regions to address the needs of the most vulnerable,” he says.

A statement issued by Ethiopia’s federal government says “[b]asic services are slowly being restored in some areas” and that plans are in place for federal forces to enter Mekelle, Tigray’s capital.

The conflict in Northern Ethiopia has been one of the world’s deadliest, with millions of people displaced and US diplomats speaking of hundreds of thousands of dead.

Tigray’s regional government says the deal was “made in order to save the people of Tigray from the social and human crisis…, which they are in”. It says: “Therefore, it should be underlined that the people and government of Tigray will firmly strive so that this accord will quickly get implemented and converted to material force”.

Aid trucks [are] yet to depart for Tigray, where millions need help after more than two years of restrictions on aid.

The provisions contained within the ceasefire deal struck in South Africa represent a victory for the federal government, granting it control of Tigray’s borders, roads, airports and regional capital. Getachew Reda, the top negotiator for Tigray, has said his side has been forced to make “painful concessions”, while Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said his government got “100%” of what it asked for.

The AU’s mediator, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, said Saturday’s agreement in Nairobi was signed “with immediate effect.” However, on Monday morning, a UN official told The Africa Report that aid trucks were yet to depart for Tigray, where millions need help after more than two years of restrictions on aid.

Last week, Reda – the government’s chief negotiator at the talks in South Africa – said 35 trucks and three of medicine had arrived in Shire, a town in North-Western Tigray. An aid worker in the region said this “was not true”.

Eritrean forces have been deeply involved in the fighting in Tigray, are allied to Ethiopia’s federal military, and remain present in several areas. Neither Saturday’s accord or the ceasefire deal struck in South Africa referred to the country by name.

On Thursday, Tigrayan official Kindeya Gebrehiwot said “killing, kidnapping and shelling” by Eritrean forces continues in Shire and the nearby town of Adi Daero. Communication is down in those areas, making it difficult to verify the claims.

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