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  • Taylor Green

Tigray Ceasefire: Remaining tensions may block total peace


The conflict in the horn of Africa has persisted for over two years and led to total deaths of up to 600,000, including a civilian death toll of 383,000 and 250,000 in military personnel. However, the region looks set to see suffering and death dissipate and a possible end to the total conflict. Furthermore, this war has led to mass famine gravely affecting over 5.2 million, along with 3.8 million requiring vital healthcare according to UN estimates.

Following ten days of negotiation, Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front found an agreement. The peace deal was completed and steered by the African Union (AU) in South Africa with peace negotiations and the final agreement accepted in Nairobi, Kenya.

The joint cessation is an important step to halt hostilities, with the peace deal showing the intent of slowing down warfare with fewer deaths in the past month. Yet the peace deal has fallibilities and flaws, mainly because Eritrea has not been mentioned - a key nation involved in the invasion of Tigray and the significant tensions between the two groups. Also, there is considerable scepticism over the peace proceedings considering the failure of previous peace deals drawn up in the past year, and the failures of peace deals to end civil wars in general.

This deal has effectively led to a complete ceasefire which has been the most crucial element of the peace proceedings that was not achieved in previous discussions or deals, and has been a much-celebrated victory for those across the region. The ceasefire agreement was signed on 2 November in Pretoria, South Africa. Obasanjo, the AU mediator, is ardent that the peace deal remains "the beginning of a new dawn for Ethiopia."

However, Tigrayan groups have argued that they do not have sufficient capabilities to guarantee their security. Areas such as the Amhara region and Eritrea seem to be a significant omission from the peace deal, considering the large part that both regions have played in the conflict. Conceivably, this leads to further tensions with the threat that Eritrea poses to the Tigrayan groups, as their terms of surrender, as it has been referred to, may lead to unrest and insecurity for the region. Eritrean soldiers are also believed to be stationed in large numbers in Tigray. This presence of military forces from a nation that has neither submitted to a ceasefire or peace talks nor is involved in talks will likely allow tensions to persist rather than create peace.

For peace to be drawn up in total, Eritrea and Amhara must be involved in the ceasefire agreement with the Tigrayan groups and the Ethiopian government. The only way to truly end a conflict is to ensure that terms of peace apply to all nations and groups involved, and only then can peace be achieved, allowing for stability and security to arise. Unfortunately, there are many examples where nations omitted from peace or talks of resolution and negotiations have led to extended tensions and warfare.

If stability can be maintained from this ceasefire, a peace treaty can be pursued; but because of the omission of crucial groups, there is still significant political conflict that is yet to be tackled before a true peace treaty can be reached. Nevertheless, historically civil wars have often not been quelled by peace agreements. Stephen Stedman, a senior research scholar at Stanford's Center for International Security and Arms Control, argued that "more people died after the peace accords in Angola and Rwanda than during the civil wars that preceded them." Therefore, even if a peace agreement is reached, it is not always likely to reach peace. Margaret Anstee, the UN Secretary General’s special representative to the Angolan peace implementation, asserted that for peace deals to become effective, there had to be little to no notion of "ambiguous" peace terms. Instead, a "strategic, overall policy framework" is necessary.

The first negotiations for Tigray involved bodies such as the United States, the European Union (EU) and African Union. Peace negotiations began with a humanitarian truce in March with the mediator General Obasanjo, the preferred representative for Ethiopia, however much scepticism over the objectiveness of Obasanjo had been raised.

The proposition to assist the humanitarian disasters caused by the conflict for people of the region in the new deal is arguably another feat that was not achieved in previous peace agreements and is significant, with much of the conflict affecting citizens of the region and causing significant humanitarian disaster. Both Tigray and the Ethiopian government pledged to uphold international humanitarian laws and return those who have been displaced by warfare. Human Rights Watch also asked that the AU monitor that humanitarian aid sent to Tigray is not obstructed.

Moreover, the UN found evidence of "war crimes and crimes against humanity" that were committed equally by the forces and groups involved. Rape, sexual violence, and significant aid blockages to cause starvation represent cruel war tactics employed in the conflict. Many civilians have been displaced and were forced to seek temporary shelter in neighbouring Sudan.

Ethiopia's economy has been in disrepair due to the warfare with shortages of food and destruction of arable land, with 72% of Ethiopians remaining a part of agri-business for their livelihoods. Major exports include coffee which, due to the civil war, has led to mass disruption of this key export. Supposing the nation can be rebuilt and maintain stability, and group aid programmes could desist further conflict and insecurity from citizens within the nation. In that case, the region's reunification, with the treaty further creating representation for Tigray in federal institutions such as parliament and peace, could be a welcomed prospect by all.

Image: Flickr/ DIRCO ZA



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