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The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Saturday urged Ethiopian and Tigrayan people to “give peace a chance” because “the most courageous choose peace.”
The WHO chief, a Tigrayan who has been very critical of the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments for imposing a devastating blockade on Tigray, tweeted his comments on Saturday.
Ethiopian and Tigrayan negotiators formally signed a truce last week Wednesday after two years of devastating war that has left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. Both parties agreed to end hostilities, disarm and allow unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray, a region in northern Ethiopia border.
The agreement was praised by both lead negotiators, Redwan Hussein, who is the national security adviser to Ethiopia’s federal government, and Getachew Reda of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The truce signed on Wednesday between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan authorities says that Tigrayan forces must fully disarm within 30 days while commanders on both sides are expected to meet within five days to figure out how the disarmament will happen.
The agreement also states that Ethiopian federal forces will be allowed to enter Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle and that federal security forces will take over highways, airports, and other federal facilities within Tigray.
Entering Mekelle should be done in a manner that is “expeditious, smooth, peaceful and coordinated,” the deal says, showing clearly that Tigrayan negotiators did not get a lot of concessions from the Ethiopian federal government.
Many believe that it will be hard to sell such a deal to the people in Tigray, and even harder to convince Tigrayan forces to disarm voluntarily after two years of a bloody war that has left millions of people displaced and thousands of people dead.
The African Union had not released the official document containing the terms of the truce, which is an agreement between enemies or opponents to stop fighting or arguing for a certain time, but the document has already been leaked to some media houses and other stakeholders.
The deal does not also include Eritrean forces or fighters from the Amhara region who have been fighting alongside the Ethiopian government. It also does not address the issue of human rights abuses or accountability for the hundreds of thousands of people who are said to have been killed. Many others who have been raped and tortured are wondering whether they can rely on federal government forces for protection.
It is not clear what concession, if any, did the Ethiopian federal government make, and why fighters from Tigray should accept the terms of the truce. On various social media platforms, many Tigrayans have already expressed disappointment with the deal.
In an opinion piece published on Today News Africa on Thursday, Omna Tigray, which describes itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan global organization with the purpose of effectively supporting the people of Tigray, said that “the movement to uphold the basic rights of Tigrayans persists as the genocidal war in Tigray reaches its two year mark,” noting that “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.”
The movement asserted that 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,” the group wrote.
The organization added, “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.”
It’s been two years, since November 4, 2020, that the war in Ethiopia has been going on between federal forces and fighters from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and while everyone is clamoring for peace and stability, it remains to be seen whether the truce signed in South Africa will lead to peace, reconciliation and unity.
The Biden administration has welcomed the deal, with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken praising the mediators and host country South Africa, as well as other partners.
“We welcome the momentous step taken in Pretoria today to advance the African Union’s campaign to “silence the guns” with the signing of a cessation of hostilities between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front,” United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in a statement. “We commend the parties for taking this initial step to agree to end the fighting and continue dialogue to resolve outstanding issues to consolidate peace and bring an end to almost two years of conflict. We welcome the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians that should result from implementation of this agreement.”
Blinken added that “the United States commends AU Commission Chairman Faki for his leadership as well as the extraordinary efforts of AU High Representative Obasanjo, former South African Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Kenyan President Kenyatta, whose facilitation led to this significant step toward peace. We also commend South Africa for generously hosting the talks.”
“The United States remains a committed partner to this AU-led process and to our collaboration with the UN, IGAD, and other regional and international partners to support implementation of today’s agreement. We welcome the statement of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy expressing gratitude to the AU and share our support for his desire for an enhanced partnership to support reconstruction and development for all communities in northern Ethiopia affected by the conflict,” he said.
Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the House of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, also welcomed the truce.
“I welcome the commitment of the parties to end the brutal violence that has taken place in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. Today would have marked two years since this senseless fighting began, devastating the country and its surrounding region,” Bass wrote in a statement sent to Today News Africa on Thursday. “This conflict has caused the unnecessary loss of 500,000 lives or more; displacement of more than two million people; and widespread hunger from the disruptions to farming and food supplies. I am hopeful that this cessation of hostilities will hold, unlike the cease fire declared in March that only lasted five months.”
She added, “It is vital to acknowledge the part that the African Union has played in reaching this agreement. The AU convened for ten days of peace talks, culminating in this formal, signed agreement. Lasting solutions will have to come from continued engagement, which both sides have expressed willingness to pursue. The continued involvement of the AU and its ally nations can play a significant role in assuring that the Tigray region and people of Ethiopia can recover from this tragic period of conflict.”