The Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have agreed to a permanent end to hostilities, in a significant step towards ending a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and more that they urgently need food aid.
The two sides said on Wednesday evening that they would “permanently silence their weapons and end the two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia” in a joint statement released after delegates shook hands.
Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels will eventually be disarmed and demobilized, the statement said. “We have also agreed on a detailed disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program for TPLF fighters, taking into account the security situation on the ground,” it read.
The agreement was first announced by the African Union (AU) High Representative for the Horn of Africa and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a media conference following AU-led negotiations in Pretoria that lasted more than a week.
There will be “systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians, especially women, girls and other vulnerable groups,” Obasanjo said.
A high-level partner of the AU will be responsible for “monitoring, monitoring and implementation”, he added, without providing further details.
“This is not the end of the peace process, but the beginning of it,” Obasanjo said.
The peace process has been successful so far. In September, forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said they were ready to observe an immediate ceasefire and accept an African Union-led peace process to end a conflict with federal forces that has extended for almost two years.
But hostilities escalated again from the beginning of October.
On October 17, UN chief Antonio Guterres said the situation was “out of control” and reiterated his call for an immediate end to the fighting in Tigray.
“Violence and destruction have reached alarming levels. The social fabric is tearing apart,” UN Secretary-General Guterres told reporters.
Guterres has underlined the “horrific” toll being taken on Ethiopia’s civilian population, saying hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes – many for the second time – since hostilities broke out. resume in August
He also said the UN had received “disturbing accounts of sexual violence and other acts of brutality against women, children and men”. CNN previously reported evidence of sexual violence being used as a deliberate weapon of war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Guterres said 13 million Ethiopians needed food and support in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions before the resumption of hostilities, which have disrupted aid deliveries for more than seven weeks. In the case of Tigray, they have been suspended altogether, according to Guterres.
“The level of need is staggering,” Guterres said.
Renewed peace talks began on October 24, the first time the two warring parties had met publicly since the conflict broke out. These talks came amid intense renewed fighting in Tigray during which Ethiopian forces gained ground.
In a statement on Wednesday, TPLF chief delegate Getachew Reda acknowledged that thousands of fighters and civilians on both sides had died in recent days since the resumption of hostilities, and stressed the importance of implementing the peace agreement as soon as possible.
“To deal with the pains of our people, we have made concessions because we have to build trust,” he said.
He urged the international community to support the cessation, to avoid a relapse of the fighting.
In a separate statement, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also celebrated the conclusion of the talks, saying: “Our commitment to peace remains strong. And our commitment to cooperation for the implementation of the agreement it’s just as strong.”
Abiy also invited international partners to help rebuild conflict-affected areas in the north.
Correction: The story has been updated to clarify the plans for the demobilization of Tigrayan rebels set out in the agreement.