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Ethiopia peace deal followed by silence on Tigray conditions

NAIROBI, Kenya — Officials close to peace talks aimed at ending Ethiopia’s deadly two-year war on Thursday confirmed the full text of the signed agreement, but a key question remains: what led Tigray’s leaders to agree to terms that include rapid disarmament and full control by the federal government?

A day after the warring parties signed a “permanent cessation of hostilities” in a war that is believed to have killed hundreds of thousands, none of the negotiators has explained how they got there.

The full agreement has not been made public, but officials confirmed that a copy obtained by The Associated Press was the final document. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

At Wednesday’s signing, Tigray’s chief negotiator described it as containing “painful concessions”.

One of the pact’s priorities is to quickly disarm the Tigray forces with heavy weapons and withdraw their “light weapons” within 30 days. Senior commanders from both sides are to meet within five days.

Ethiopian security forces will take full control of “all federal facilities, installations and infrastructure…in the Tigray region”, and an interim regional administration will be established after dialogue between the parties, the agreement says. The terrorist designation for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front party will be lifted.

If implemented, the agreement should mark the end of the devastating conflict in Africa’s second most populous country. Millions of people were displaced and many remained close to starvation under a blockade of the Tigray region of over 5 million people. Abuses have been documented on all sides.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said his government had received everything it asked for in the peace talks.

“During the negotiations in South Africa, Ethiopia’s peace proposal was 100% accepted”, and the government is ready to “open our hearts” for peace to prevail, Abiy said in a speech. He added that the issue of disputed areas, considered one of the most difficult, will only be resolved through the law of the land and negotiations.

Neither the Ethiopian government nor the Tigray negotiators responded to questions.

As part of the comprehensive agreement, both sides agreed not to make any unilateral statements that would undermine it. The agreement also calls for the “immediate cessation of all forms of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech”. The conflict has been marked by language that US special envoy Mike Hammer, who helped with the peace talks, described as having “a high level of toxicity.”

“The human cost of this conflict has been devastating. I urge all Ethiopians to seize this opportunity for peace,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Thursday, one of several messages from observers expressing cautious hope.

Huge challenges await us. The opaque and repressive government of neighboring Eritrea, whose forces fought alongside Ethiopian forces, had no comment, and it was unclear whether Eritrean forces had begun to withdraw. The agreement stipulates that Ethiopian forces will be deployed along the borders and “will ensure that there is no provocation or incursion on either side of the border”.

Mustafa Yusuf Ali, an analyst at the Horn International Institute for Strategic Studies, said building trust will be crucial. The agreement “must be coordinated, it must be systematic, and above all it must be sequenced so that the Tigrayans are not left to their own devices after having surrendered all their weapons and then suddenly they are attacked from the center,” he said. .

The agreement sets timeframes for disarmament, but nothing else, though it says the Ethiopian government will “expedite the delivery of humanitarian assistance” and “accelerate and coordinate the restoration of essential services in the Tigray region. within the agreed time frame”.

The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross said they had not yet resumed the delivery of humanitarian aid to Tigray, whose communications, transport and banking links have been largely cut off since the start of the fighting. Some basic drugs are sold out.

“It is not surprising that it may take a little time to get the word out to the relevant authorities on the ground. We are in contact with them and are trying to get this unimpeded access as soon as possible,” the spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, Stéphane Dujarric, told reporters.

Inside Tigray, an aid worker from the town of Shire said there had been no sound of gunfire in the past few days, but people and vehicles were still prevented from moving freely. The worker spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Residents of Tigray’s regional capital, Mekele, were nervously awaiting the next steps.

Asked about the peace agreement, resident Gidey Tsadik replied: “It’s good. Everybody is happy. However, it is not known exactly when we will have this peace.

Tedros Hiwot said residents had not heard of the resumption of basic services. “We need this to happen quickly,” he said.

Tigrayans outside the region said they still could not reach their families by phone. “I hope this will be an opportunity to reconnect with my family,” said Andom Gebreyesus, who lives in Kenya. “I miss them and I don’t know if they are alive.”

At a memorial service in the capital, Addis Ababa, for soldiers killed in the conflict, Defense Minister Abraham Belay spoke of “the very complex and difficult reconstruction work ahead of us”.


Associated Press writers Desmond Tiro in Nairobi, Kenya, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.


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