June 17, 2024

Omna Tigray reacts to Ethiopia peace talks and truce: ‘The movement to uphold the basic rights of Tigrayans persists as the genocidal war in Tigray reaches its two year mark’ – Opinion

November 4, 2022, marks two years since the Ethiopian government, along with the Eritrean government and Amhara regional forces, began their war in Tigray. For the last two years, Tigrayans have been fighting, both physically and mentally, for their right to survive and their right to self-determination. The war has led to over 2.2 million Tigrayans being internally displaced, over 600,000 civilians killed, and tens of thousands of women and girls subjugated to systematic conflict-related sexual violence.

Under a telecommunication blackout, the Ethiopian government and its allies have committed atrocities amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide. The genocidal intent of invading forces, which they have explicitly and repeatedly espoused, is well-documented. Their deliberate and vindictive campaign of destruction has led to the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis.

The Ethiopian government’s humanitarian blockade, which has been in place for over a year and a half, has created a man-made famine and humanitarian catastrophe, wherein thousands are dying due to starvation and lack of medication.

As per the United Nations-mandated Independent Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) investigation, “the Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that the denial and obstruction of humanitarian access to Tigray Region by the Federal Government and allied regional State governments was committed for the purpose of depriving the Tigrayan population of objects indispensable for its survival, including food and healthcare.” Yet, despite overwhelming evidence of the scale and extent of atrocities the people of Tigray have been subjected to, the international community has largely turned a blind eye to the immense suffering of civilians in Tigray.

Amid a renewed offensive by joint Ethiopian-Eritrean forces launched in late September 2022, the governments of Tigray and Ethiopia agreed to engage in African Union-led peace talks in Pretoria, South Africa. On November 2, 2022, after days of negotiations, both parties signed a cessation of hostilities agreement (CoHA) and agreed to unhindered humanitarian aid access, amongst other points.

Though this agreement is cause for cautious optimism, as it aims to guarantee the safety of civilians and ensure humanitarian access, it is yet to be seen how such an agreement will be implemented and what verification mechanisms will be in place.

Although the two parties had never signed any form of peace agreement prior to this, previous “unilateral ceasefire” or “humanitarian truce” declarations by the Ethiopian government have proved to be little more than rhetorical declarations that did not alter conditions on the ground. Despite the Ethiopian government’s numerous declarations, there has been practically no humanitarian access across large swaths of Tigray. Additionally, the African Union and the international community at large have repeatedly failed to hold the Ethiopian government to account. Nor have they acted decisively to curb the Eritrean state’s ongoing involvement in the war on Tigray.

Therefore, as a sign of good faith, the Ethiopian government must immediately restore basic services in Tigray, including electricity, telecommunication, and internet services. Moreover, unfettered humanitarian access must be granted immediately, and humanitarian actors must be ready to meet the needs of millions of Tigrayans who have suffered through a 2-year-long genocide without food or a functioning medical system. To show its adherence to the spirit and letter of the agreement signed on November 2, the Ethiopian government must immediately undertake these steps to alleviate the suffering in Tigray. Whether and how quickly it does so should serve as the first litmus test for how successful this agreement is likely to be.

Paramount to the potential success of any peace process is its verified implementation, which would include ensuring the removal of Eritrean and Amhara regional forces from inside the constitutionally recognized boundaries of Tigray. For the safety and security of Tigrayans to be ensured, a clear, monitored, and verifiable withdrawal process of these brutal forces must be outlined and adhered to. But the question remains – who will meaningfully help implement and oversee this process?

It is unclear if those who facilitated and supported the CoHA – the African Union, United Nations, or the United States – have the capacity or the willingness to utilize soft or hard power to guarantee a successful process and outcome. After two years of unimaginable crimes committed in Tigray by the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, it would be dangerously naive and unrealistic to expect the disarmament of Tigrayan forces while foreign forces are still within Tigrayan borders conducting campaigns of ethnic cleansing and widespread destruction.

The cessation of hostilities agreement is only the beginning of a process meant to end the war on Tigray and ensure peace in the region. The terms of this agreement and future discussions should keep the Tigrayan peoples’ right to survive and the right to self-determination at their core. This would mean ensuring and holding all parties accountable to:

1- The safety and security of Tigrayans and the region of Tigray;

2- The ability for Tigrayans to make decisions regarding their current and future states;

3- Justice for all who have endured horrific atrocities and accountability for all perpetrators;

4- Non-recurrence of all atrocities, including genocide, and re-building with the framework of a “post-genocide” state;

5- The use of the Ethiopian Constitution to resolve political differences; and

6-A national dialogue and end to the violence across Ethiopia, particularly in Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz, where thousands have also been killed.

As we mark the second anniversary of the genocide in Tigray and a cessation of hostilities agreement, we must recognize that the fight is far from over and that the existence of millions of Tigrayans is still on the line. We must also recognize that Tigrayans have been fighting for their right to exist for generations–though the scale of crimes is greater, this war against Tigray and Tigrayans is not the first in the country’s history. The international community must not stop engaging as the safety and security of Tigrayans are tied to the safety and security of the wider region.

Omna Tigray will continue to push forward in honor of the lives lost, striving towards the complete guarantee of Tigrayans’ basic human rights, so that future generations can grow old in peace and no longer live through the trauma of war.

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