The Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have agreed to put an end to hostilities for good, which is an important step towards ending the bitter war that has left thousands dead, millions displaced and millions more in urgent need of food aid.
The two sides said Wednesday evening that they would “permanently silence the guns and end the two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia” in a joint statement released after delegates shook hands.
Ethiopian rebels in Tigray will eventually be disarmed and demobilized, the statement said. “We have also agreed on a detailed disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program for TPLF combatants, 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 press conference following the negotiations conducted by the AU in Pretoria which 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, children and other vulnerable groups”, Obasanjo said.
A high-level AU partner will be in charge of “monitoring, supervision and implementation”, he added, without giving further details.
“This is not the end of the peace process but the beginning of it,” Obasanjo said.
The peace process has been turbulent so far. In September, forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said they were ready to observe an immediate ceasefire and agree to an African Union-led peace process to end a conflict with federal forces. which has been going on for almost two years.
But hostilities intensified again from the beginning of October.
On October 17, UN chief Antonio Guterres said the situation was “spinning out of control” and reiterated his calls for an immediate end to the fighting in Tigray.
“Violence and destruction have reached alarming levels. The social fabric is being torn apart,” UN Secretary General Guterres told reporters.
António Guterres highlighted the “horrible” toll imposed on Ethiopia’s civilian population, saying hundreds of thousands of people had been forced from their homes – many for the second time – since hostilities resumed 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 has previously reported evidence of the deliberate use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.
Guterres said 13 million Ethiopians needed food and support in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions before the resumption of hostilities, which halted 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,” said António Guterres.
New peace talks began on October 24, marking the first time the two warring sides have met publicly since the conflict began. The talks came amid renewed heavy fighting in Tigray as Ethiopian forces gained ground.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, TPLF Chief Delegate Getachew Reda acknowledged that thousands of combatants 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.
“In order to deal with the suffering of our people, we have made concessions because we have to build trust,” he said.
He urged the international community to support the cessation, in order to avoid a resumption of fighting.
In a separate statement, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also celebrated the conclusion of the talks saying, “Our commitment to peace remains unwavering. And our commitment to work together to implement the agreement is just as strong.
Abiy also invited international partners to help with reconstruction in conflict-affected areas in the north.
Correction: The story has been updated to clarify the demobilization plans for the Tigrayan rebels set out in the agreement.