Ethiopia’s government and rebels that have been fighting a two-year civil war in Africa’s second-most-populous nation said Wednesday they agreed to put down their arms, the first step toward ending a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
“The two parties have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities, as well as systematic and orderly disarmament and unhindered access to humanitarian supplies,” said
the former Nigerian president who led African Union-mediated peace talks in South Africa.
The agreement, signed by representatives of the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister
and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, raised hopes that intense fighting that has ravaged Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and spilled into neighboring provinces would come to an end.
Under the terms of the truce, the Ethiopian government agreed to restore electricity and banking services, which were severed in the early days of the war, to Tigray.
The government in Addis Ababa also agreed to allow unhindered humanitarian supplies to the region. Aid groups have warned of an escalating hunger and medical crisis for Tigray’s six million people.
In November 2020 the government of Mr. Ahmed accused fighters linked to the TPLF of attacking an Ethiopian military base and launched what he called a law-enforcement operation against the group that had dominated Ethiopian politics for close to three decades.
In a statement issued by his office, Mr. Ahmed, who didn’t attend the talks in the South African capital Pretoria, hailed the truce and appealed for international support for the reconstruction of Tigray and other conflict-ravaged areas.
“Our commitment to peace remains steadfast,” he said. “And our commitment to collaborating for the implementation of the agreement is equally strong.”
who led the Tigrayan delegation, said the TPLF made painful concessions to end the suffering caused by the war. “It’s not because we were weary of fighting,” he said.
Details of the terms of the deal were scant. An earlier five-month humanitarian truce was shattered in August and government forces, supported by troops from neighboring Eritrea, continued to mount artillery barrages and airstrikes on positions of Tigrayan fighters as the Pretoria talks dragged on over the past week.
Both sides in the conflict have been accused of atrocities against civilians and other human-rights abuses. There were also questions over the position of Eritrea, which wasn’t part of the Pretoria talks but has been fighting alongside the government troops since the start of the conflict.
“As much as a resolution was urgent to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the Tigrayans, the conflict was not considered particularly ripe for resolution,” said
a former State Department official, now with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. “This would suggest that they have bypassed confidence building measures that come with a more incremental approach.”
The true death toll is unknown. Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium have estimated that the fighting, disease or starvation have claimed as many as 500,000 lives since the outbreak of the conflict.
Write to Nicholas Bariyo at [email protected]
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