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What is happening in the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia and what does the peace agreement mean?

It is not easy to finally end an armed conflict, especially of an internal nature such as Ethiopia has been in since November 4, 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive by the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (FDNE) against the Popular Front. The Liberation Front of Tigray (PFLT) in response to an attack that its fighters carried out against a federal military base located in the northern region of the country. However, following the signing of the cessation of hostilities reached on 2 November (Pretoria Agreement), there are promising signs such as the delivery of heavy military materiel and demobilization by the PFLT.

In fact, there is not even an agreement on the start date of the conflict or the distribution of responsibilities. On the one hand, it is worth going back to the tensions that have been manifested since the moment in 2019 the PFLT ceased to be part of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDREP), the ethnically profiled government coalition that dominated the political system. The scene follows the end of the civil war in 1991, with the addition of the war that led to Eritrean independence in 1993.

This political failure forced the PFLT (which was a fundamental pillar of the ERDF) to refuse integration into the Ahmed-led Welfare Party and to confine itself to its home region of Tigray, from where it increasingly challenged the Central. Power in Addis Ababa. A challenge that gained final momentum from the moment Abi Ahmed set in motion a process that essentially seeks to strengthen the power of the central government at the expense of regional governments. It was in this context that the PFLT dared to call for local elections in September 2020, which were immediately rejected by the Ahmed government.

The prime minister argued that they were illegal, violating the government’s decision to paralyze all pending election processes due to the impact that COVID-19 was having on the country. The same Ahmed who, a day before the aforementioned attack on the military base, appeared ready to facilitate the designation of the PFLT as a terrorist organization with the support of the National Parliament.

The Pretoria agreement was not reached as a result of a landslide victory for the Ethiopian army, which also had direct support from neighboring Eritrea, seen as an existential threat by the PFLT, and regional militias from Amhara and Oromia. In any case, for a long time it seemed clear that the balance was tipping in their favor, to the extent that the PFLT was fighting a vastly superior force in terms of numbers and resources and without any regional or international political support.

Therefore, the peace talks that began on October 25 in Pretoria (South Africa) were accelerated until they reached the Pretoria Agreement, which establishes a cessation of hostilities and an executive declaration on the methods of implementation of the agreement, signed on the same 12th day. month. This declaration contemplates the delivery of heavy weapons and the demobilization of militants, the restoration of public services in Tigrah, the reactivation of humanitarian aid, and the withdrawal of all armed groups and foreign forces that fought alongside the FDNE.

While it is undeniable that steps are being taken towards peace, there are still many pending issues that all parties must overcome in order to finally turn the page on the conflict with several open fronts.

It is true that Mekele, the capital of Tigray, was reconnected to the national electricity grid since December 6 of last year, the Central Bank has been operating in various places in the region since December 19, and the Federal Police has been operating in the city since December 26.

But it is also true that, on the one hand, the complete withdrawal of the armed groups has not yet taken place, when it was assumed that this should happen along with the supply of weapons by the PFLT. And, on the other hand, armed clashes between PFLT forces and Amhara militias have not stopped, compounded by those confronting the Oromo Liberation Army and the FDNE. All this without forgetting that thousands of deaths and accumulated displaced persons are not easy obstacles to overcome when it comes to achieving reconciliation, which seems to be very difficult.

A possible end to the war by no means means the end of Ethiopia’s problems. The situation in which its more than 120 million inhabitants live poorly – in a country with a gross domestic product of only about €100,000 million and a Human Development Index that places it 173rd out of 189 countries – suggests this. Be extremely careful about the coming of peace.

Jesús A. Nuñez Villaverde is co-director of the Institute for the Study of Conflict and Humanitarian Action (IECAH).

Source: El Diario





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