Landmark Ethiopia truce could one day end war but there are reasons for caution : NPR
Phill Magokoe / AFP via Getty Images
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Now that the two warring sides in Ethiopia have signed a landmark peace deal, the world is watching to see if it really means ending one of the deadliest conflicts. world or not.
The the deal has been done Wednesday as the fighting nears the two-year mark since fighting broke out in the Tigray area, in the early hours of November 4, 2020. The fighting has killed hundreds of thousands of people, forcing millions to flee. homes and devastated one of Africa’s largest economies.
At a ceremony in South Africa, mediators for the Ethiopian federal government and insurgents from the country’s northern Tigray region shook hands and posed for photos, before sitting down to sign a permanent end to hostilities. far.
But a key player in the conflict – Eritrea’s neighbour – has not participated in the negotiations, which raises questions about the lasting strength of the truce.
Here are some keys to understanding the importance of agreement.
Why did the war start?
War broke out after months of tension between the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Tigray’s ruling party.
The TPLF once dominated Ethiopian politics, with the leadership of a ruling coalition first in 27, but ousted by protests in 2018.
These tensions culminated when Abiy postponed the elections scheduled for August 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. When the TPLF went ahead with its own regional vote, Abiy suspended Tigray’s federal funding.
Who fired the first shots is hotly debated. Abiy’s government blamed the TPLF for attacking a federal army base in Tigray, while TPLF officials said they were preparing for an invasion of their area by federal and military troops. allies from neighboring Eritrea.
Why did it increase?
The Ethiopian federal troops and their Eritrean allies captured Tigray’s main towns and roads in the early days of the war, but they were driven out of the area by June 2021 in the face of a guerrilla campaign from the TPLF.
Then the conflict spilled over into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar. Tigray rebels launched the attack, which reached 125 miles from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa late last year and sparked an exodus of Western diplomats. But they were forced back when strikes from hastily purchased government drones hit their overstretched supply lines.
An uneasy armistice since March brought fighting to a halt, but fighting flared up again in late August, with federal forces reaping the rewards last month by captured a series of towns in Tigray.
According to investigators, all sides violated human rights. In particular, the Eritrean army waged a mass murder and rape campaign when they occupied Tigray from November 2020 to June 2021.
United Nations officials have concluded the federal government of Ethiopia used starve as a weapon of war by restricting access to aid to Tigray, where 5.2 million people need aid. Thousands of people are believed to have died from starvation and lack of medical supplies.
Much of the war was fought during heavy communications blackouts. Internet and telephone lines are provided to areas affected by the fighting and access to international media is tightly controlled, meaning very little information leaks out of the war zone. the.
However, the conflict has mobilized a large number of troops, with the number of fighters fighting before the peace agreement is estimated to be between 500,000 and 1 million combined. “In terms of international comparison, this is currently the biggest conflict in the world today,” said one Western diplomat.
What’s in the deal?
In South Africa, the federal government of Ethiopia and the TPLF have agreed to a permanent end to hostilities to end the bloodshed, according to their joint statement. They also agreed to restore services to Tigray and not be prevented from accessing aid agencies.
TPLF also agreed to disarm and demobilize its large armed forces, while the federal government would restore its power in the region by taking control of its roads and airfields. Implementation of the deal will be overseen by a panel of experts overseen by the African Union (AU), a group of 55 member countries that brokered the deal.
The parties also said in the statement they would establish a transitional justice policy “to ensure accountability, truth, reconciliation and healing.”
Will the deal hold?
Foreign negotiators and officials hailed the deal as an important first step, but stressed that much more needed to be done to reach a lasting political agreement. “This moment is not the end of the peace process, but the beginning,” said AU special envoy and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the reconciliation efforts.
The bottom line remains. The largest was the presence of Eritrean troops in Tigray. They were heavily involved in the skirmish but Eritrea was not present at the negotiations and was not involved in the agreement.
The country’s leader, Isaias Afwerki, has a longstanding grudge against the leadership of the TPLF and may appear reluctant to withdraw from Tigray. Notably, the agreement did not contain direct provisions for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, and President Afwerki was likely to derail the peace process.
Another issue is the fate of western Tigray. The area was occupied by Amhara troops in the early days of the conflict and remains under their control. Amhara politicians insisted the land was theirs, but Tigray’s leadership had previously demanded its return.