A surprise deal has been reached in Ethiopia as members on both sides of its civil war agree to halt their two-year conflict which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and warnings of a famine.
Just over a week after formal peace talks mediated by the African Union (AU) began in the South African capital Pretoria, delegates from Tigray and Ethiopia have signed an agreement on a “permanent cessation of hostilities.”
The war stems from a catastrophic breakdown in relations between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a guerrilla movement turned political party which dominated Ethiopia for 27 years, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was once part of their ruling coalition but whose appointment in 2018 ended the TPLF’s dominance.
Escalating tensions in 2018-20, including over Abiy’s peace deal with the TPLF’s sworn enemy Eritrea, and the TPLF’s decision to defy him by holding regional elections in Tigray that he had postponed nationwide, tipped the parties into war.
The war in Ethiopia has had a devastating and crippling effect on the country. Almost 90% of people in the northern Tigray region need food aid, the World Health Organization says. The agreement between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces should allow aid deliveries to resume.
About a third of the region’s children are suffering from malnutrition. Although it’s a major breakthrough, it’ll be received with some degree of caution.
According to Reuters, an agreement had not been expected so soon. Earlier on Wednesday, the AU had invited media to what it described as a briefing by Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the AU mediation team, at a ceremony. It was only when the event began that it became clear a truce was about to be signed.
“This moment is not the end of the peace process. Implementation of the peace agreement signed today is critical for its success,” said Obasanjo, adding that this would be supervised and monitored by a high-level AU panel.
Obasanjo, who stepped down as Nigeria’s president in 2007 and has since mediated conflicts across Africa, praised the process as an African solution to an African problem.