Officials and leaders from the African Union and some African nations recently arrived in the Tigray region of Ethiopia to launch a joint monitoring and verification mechanism for a peace deal signed in November 2022 to put an end to the two-year war.
In November 2020, global attention turned to the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region between Ethiopian government forces and its allies against Tigrayan forces. The fighting followed a year of growing political tensions between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray’s regional authorities, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
By July 2021, the conflict had spread to Tigray’s neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara and has seen thousands of people dead, displaced and on the run.
The mediating team led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as African Union representatives and diplomats from various countries are keeping a very close eye on the cease-fire’s progress.
The warring factions have agreed to a joint African Union monitoring team to ensure that the peace agreement is being implemented and that no cease-fire violations are occurring.
The visiting delegation was welcomed by Tigray region president Debretsion Gebremichael and will be monitoring the full implementation of the peace agreement, part of which calls for the restoration of all services, the provision of adequate aid to the needy population, the disarmament of rebel groups, and the withdrawal of foreign forces and other militia groups from the region.
The delegation’s visit comes as the Tigray rebel group prepares to disarm and surrender the region to the federal government. The Tigray rebel group is hesitant to accept the move because they accuse Eritrean troops of attacking the population and obstructing humanitarian aid, as well as the presence of militias from the Amhara and Afar regions.
The government restored telecommunication services to more towns this week, and Ethiopian Airlines flew to Mekele for the first time in nearly two years last week, which allowed families to reconnect.
Former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who is an African Union Commission High-Level Panel Member, said while he was happy that both sides have agreed to a joint AU monitoring team to ensure that the peace agreement is being implemented, he was looking forward to the day when all hostilities would cease in the region for good.
Antony Blinken, secretary of state of the United States, praised the launch of the AU-led disarmament team. “The signing and launch of the AU-MVCM in Mekelle is another important step towards securing lasting peace for the people of northern Ethiopia,” he said in a statement issued last week.
He commended the AU and its High-Level Panel for facilitating agreement on the AU-MVCM. And said that the United States looks forward to working with AU panel members and all relevant parties to expedite full implementation of the COHA that leads to lasting peace for the benefit of all Ethiopians. He also said that the United States will also continue to support the AU’s mandate to prevent, manage, and resolve conflicts and promote peace, security, and stability on the continent
The news no doubt must have come as a relief to the U.S. government has President Joe Biden had renewed sanctions imposed on Ethiopian officials involved in the Tigray conflict in September last year, pointing out that the situation in the Horn of Africa continues to pose a threat to U.S. national security and foreign policy.
The move at the time was intended to impose sanctions on certain officials responsible for blocking food aid deliveries, or for taking other actions to fuel the civil war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Since the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region broke out in November 2020, international human rights organizations and aid groups have documented atrocities, widespread sexual violence, forced displacement, and attacks on civilian infrastructure by Ethiopian federal government forces and their allies, including Eritrean government forces.
Tigrayan militia forces have also been implicated in killing and raping Eritrean refugees.
Ten military experts from different African countries, including South Sudan and Kenya, make up the MVCM team, which has already begun to observe the collection of heavy weaponry held by the TPLF at Agula, which is located close to Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.
When the disarmament is fully implemented, Eritrean and Amhara forces are expected to withdraw from the Tigray region, according to officials of the federal government. Reports say that Eritrean troops have already started to leave the region.
Regional elections will be conducted in Tigray after the region is fully stabilized. An interim government will be formed in Tigray, comprising the TPLF, the federal government, and opposition parties in Tigray, according to Redwan Hussein (Amb), security advisor to the Prime Minister. He stated this while briefing members of the opposition party at the African Leadership Excellence Academy on December 28, 2022 in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopian Airlines began flights to Mekelle, with plans to resume Shire flights and triple Mekelle flights beginning Monday, January 1, 2023. Ethio telecom has also resumed its connection to Mekelle and 28 other towns in the region after repairing more than half of its 1,800 kilometers of fiber-optic cable in the conflict areas. Electricity, transportation, and banking services are also resuming, while banks are facing liquidity problems as fresh injections are required into their branches in Tigray.
By December 29, 2002 over 106,000 metric tons of humanitarian aid and 1,400 metric tons of medicine had been provided to Tigray since the peace agreement was signed on November 2, 2022.
“We have walked the talk,” Olusegun Obasanjo said during the MVCM launch in Mekelle last week. After being assigned by the AU 17 months ago to find a way out of the deadly conflict between the federal government and TPLF, he traveled to Mekelle for the 10th time.
“The suspicion and the heated debate eventually led to the peace agreement. An agreement that will be implemented slowly. The trust building is really crucial,” said Uhuru Kenyatta, who also hopes to see the celebration of the completion of the peace progress in Addis Ababa by the time the Ethiopian Christmas arrives, which will be on January 7, 2022.
However, officials from both the federal government and Tigray state say there is still a lot of work to be done to end the war.