Ethiopia comes to a peace agreement after two years of civil war

At the 20th CPC Congress, Beijing made a claim to form an alternative center of power to the West, calling on developing countries to unite with China to counter Western hegemony

Negotiations between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party in Pretoria ended on November 2 with a peace agreement involving a cessation of hostilities and the militants’ disarmament.

The agreement may bring the long-awaited peace Ethiopia desperately needs as it begins a new phase of its ambitious energy project. The country is beginning preparations to connect The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (also referred to as Hidase Dam) on the Blue Nile to the national electricity grid. And the country is already preparing to start exporting energy to neighboring countries in the next few days.

Tigray
Image: (сс) U.S. Department

 

Ethiopia survived two years of war

The war in Ethiopia caused a great resonance in the world. The conflict in one of the advanced countries of Africa took place between the old government, the ethnic party of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and the new government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The armed conflict began on the night of November 3, 2020, when forces from the Tigray region attacked a federal army base in the regional capital of Mekelle. After the attack on the base of the national defense forces, the country’s prime minister announced the mobilization of troops to suppress the uprising in Tigray.

A month after the military operation against the TPLF began, federal troops announced the takeover of the regional capital and their victory. However, it soon turned out that everything was not so simple – the war had become a guerrilla war.

It is worth noting that almost all Tigrayan leaders have had experience in guerrilla warfare since the 1970s. Six months later, the TPLF went on a counteroffensive, attacking neighboring regions and even threatening to take over the capital Addis Ababa.

During the war, humanitarian and human rights organizations reported on the “atrocities” taking place in Tigray on both sides. Crimes against civilians, massacres and rapes were reported. Western media reported on the genocide of Tigrayans, illegal persecution and arrests on ethnic criteria.

Tigray was under blockade – transport, financial, information. Food, medicine, fuel and seeds for agriculture stopped coming to the region. International organizations cited starvation as another weapon against Tigray.

They decided to cope with the people of Tigray by starving them to death,” said UN Chief Humanitarian Representative Mark Lowcock on June 15, 2021.

The TPLF blamed the government and state authorities for the humanitarian crisis in the region and vice versa.

The armed conflict spread beyond the rebellious Tigray. Fighting spread to the neighboring regions of Afar, Amhara, and Oromia, and eventually the conflict turned into a full-scale civil war. Over two years, tens of thousands of people died on both sides, and several million became refugees.

Debretsion Gebremichael
Image: (cc) ITU Pictures

 

Humanitarian Truce

On March 24, 2022, Ethiopian authorities announced a unilateral humanitarian truce to help those in need in the Tigray region.

The government increased the number of UN humanitarian flights and accelerated the processing of fuel and cash deliveries to aid organizations. However, authorities said the humanitarian situation in the region can only improve if the opposing side reciprocates.

To ensure the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls on the rebels in Tigray to refrain from any further acts of aggression and withdraw from their occupied areas in neighboring regions,” state agency Fana reported in March 2022.

Rebels supported the truce proposal. On March 25, the Ethiopian newspaper Addis Standart wrote that the rebels promised an immediate cessation of hostilities if people in the region received humanitarian aid equivalent to their needs within a reasonable time.

The Tigray government will do everything possible to make the cessation of hostilities a success,” regional authorities said.

The truce lasted five months. Supplies of humanitarian goods to Tigray increased, but aid was insufficient, the TPLF claimed. On August 22, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, in an article in The Africa Report, denied that the crisis was over and peace was approaching in Tigray.

The fact is that a negotiated ceasefire and a comprehensive political settlement is no closer to being achieved now than it was a year ago,” Gebremichael said.

Fighting between the TPLF and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces resumed on August 24. The fighting took place near the town of Kobo in Tigray. Both sides accused each other of unleashing hostilities.

At 5 a.m. today (the TPLF) struck on the Eastern Front from Bisober, Zobel and Tekulshe. By carrying out such a measure, they effectively violated the ceasefire,” the Ethiopian State Liaison Service stated.

The military command of the Tigray forces also accused the government of violating the ceasefire. The conflict flared up with renewed vigor.

Also on August 24, the Ethiopian Air Force said it shot down an aircraft that had entered Ethiopian airspace from Sudan. According to the military, the plane shot down in the skies over Humera was heading for Tigray with weapons destined for the TPLF.

In this case, the rebels, who were previously actively supported by international organizations, by their actions caused a negative attitude of the UN towards themselves, after looting a warehouse of the international organization.

Humanitarian aid truck in Tigray
Image: (сс) USAID

 

Peace agreement

On October 5, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s national security adviser Redwan Hussein tweeted that the Ethiopian government had accepted an invitation to participate in negotiations under the aegis of the African Union “without preconditions.” The TPLF also agreed to participate.

The first official peace talks were supposed to take place in South Africa on October 8, but they were postponed because of logistical problems. But as early as 24 October, representatives of the two warring parties met.

Negotiations lasted 10 days behind closed doors and on 2 November the parties to the conflict reached an agreement.

The document of hostilities cessation between the federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) specified the following important points:

Cessation of hostilities;

Disarmament, demobilization of the TPLF forces. Disarmament must be completed within 30 days of signing the agreement;

Restoration of federal authority in Tigray State;

Establishment of an interim state government;

Termination of hostile propaganda. Statements used should support early implementation of the agreement;

The government should facilitate the withdrawal of the TPLF’s status as a terrorist organization as soon as possible;

Compliance with the agreement will be monitored by an AU panel of experts.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile
Image: (cc) Hailefida

 

The Peace Agreement and the Ethiopian Renaissance

One of the goals of the agreement is to “promote the economic recovery and reconstruction” of Ethiopia. This may refer primarily to the African country’s main energy project, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

On November 2, the agency Fana, citing Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP), reported that in a few days inspection and technical work will begin before connecting the Hidase hydropower plant to the national electricity grid of Ethiopia.

The Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, when completed, is expected to be the largest hydroelectric power plant on the continent. The power plant has an installed capacity of 6.45 Gigawatts. The hydropower plant should solve the long-standing problem of providing electricity to the population of Ethiopia.

In addition, Addis Ababa is preparing to start exporting electricity to Kenya in the coming days. For this purpose, all technical works have already been completed. Based on the agreement signed between the two countries in 2021, the first sale will be 200 Megawatts of electricity.

Ethiopia also plans to supply electricity to other neighboring countries: Djibouti, Sudan, and South Sudan.

The authorities called on the regions’ security forces and the population to assist in the maintenance and testing of the power lines.

During the armed conflict, power grid infrastructure was repeatedly damaged. In late October, there were reports of power outages in the cities of Alamata, Korem, Waja, Timuga and Kobo in northern Ethiopia.

According to authorities, the power lines were damaged by TPLF militants. Tigray authorities blame central authorities for the destruction of infrastructure.

The civil war runs counter to Ethiopia’s plans to become the most electrified country in Africa, which wants to supply energy to neighboring countries.

Africa is the region with the least access to electricity. This is especially true for countries in central Africa.

Access to electricity in Africa
Image: © Rossa Primavera News Agency

 

African Union and other negotiators

Negotiations between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF took place under the aegis of the African Union (AU). The AU Commission was chaired by Moussa Faki Mahamat and the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose participation was insisted upon by the Tigray rebels, and former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo also served as mediators in the talks.

Ahead of the talks, US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer visited Ethiopia twice. He made two trips to the country, in September and October, and held meetings with representatives of both warring parties.

There is little information in the public domain about these meetings, but it is clear that they were important for both Washington and the participants in the conflict in Ethiopia.

At the same time, the US in the Horn of Africa is clearly inferior to China, which is actively pursuing its economic policy. And no power changes in Ethiopia have significantly affected cooperation with China.

The government of the first Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (TPLF) actively developed cooperation with Beijing. But Nobel laureate Abiy Ahmed, initially applauded by the West, is also working with China.

Abiy Ahmed in a war zone
Image: Quote from Abiy Ahmed Ali @AbiyAhmedAli Twitter

 

The government of Abiy Ahmed and the TPLF

It is not entirely clear how the current government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed plans to build relations with the former the party in power TPLF.

The Ahmed government has enough TPLF haters, such as Ethiopian Education Minister Berhanu Nega, leader of the opposition Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice party.

The government of former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, leader of the TPLF, sentenced Nega to death in 2009. Nega went into hiding in the United States, where he raised money to fight the Tigray Party.

Nega himself is a supporter of the Arab Spring and a friend of Eritrea, where units of the anti-government rebel group Ginbot 7 were based.

In the Ahmed government, the position of defense minister is held by Abraham Belay, head of the interim Tigray administration, established after the quick victories of the federal army in 2020, then ousted by the TPLF.

The Speaker of the Ethiopian House of Federation is former president of the region, Amhara Agegnehu Teshager, who on his Twitter page called for “burying” the TPLF.

At the same time, according to the peace agreement, the government must “facilitate” the removal of the TPLF’s terrorist organization status. And it is up to the House of Representatives to remove that status.

Previously, despite all the talks about the desire to resolve the conflict peacefully, the former ruling party, under which Ethiopia was economically developing and had 8% GDP growth, was called “terrorists” in the state media. The rebels referred to the Ahmed government as a “fascist clique“.

In Pretoria, the warring parties agreed to take responsibility for implementing the peace agreement, and to make statements that would facilitate its implementation.

On November 4, Prime Minister Ahmed’s national security adviser, Redwan Hussein, said in a speech that the media should also not exacerbate problems, but should work to build solidarity in the country.

A soldier with a flag of Tigray at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, 2015
Image: (cc) Paul Kagame

 

Has the Ethiopian civil war ended?

What are the perspectives for peace in Ethiopia and for resolving a national conflict that has deep historical roots? Many international politicians have noted that implementing a peace agreement would require a lot of effort.

For example, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said on November 4 that it would be a “difficult journey.”

The world looks at Ukraine and blames Russia. But Ethiopia is certainly the worst humanitarian crisis … and war in the last two years,” the EU diplomatic chief added.

African Union High Representative for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo told reporters on November 4 that “implementation of the peace agreement will require agility, statesmanship, leadership, patriotism.

On the same day, November 4, there were accusations from Tigray authorities that the government had violated the agreement. TPLF spokesman Kindeya Gebrehiwot said of a drone attack on a town in the region.

This comes after the signing of the peace agreement in Pretoria,” Gebrehiwot wrote on Twitter.

However, the incident did not lead to a renewal of hostilities, and a few hours later it was preferred to be “forgotten” in both Mekelle and Addis Ababa. If a truce is needed by both sides, Ethiopia has a chance for a political resolution of the conflict. The beginning of the twenty-first century shows how easily armed conflicts erupt when ignited by skillful hands. And none of them has yet been brought to a lasting conclusion. If Ethiopia is able to defend its peace process, it will be hope for many.

Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency

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