Parties in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict agree to cease hostilities

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The parties in the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray have agreed to cease hostilities, a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough two years into a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

The war, which broke out in November 2020, pits regional forces from Tigray against Ethiopia’s federal army and its allies, who include forces from other regions and from neighbouring Eritrea.

African Union mediator Olusegun Obasanjo, welcoming delegates from the government and the Tigray forces to a signing ceremony on Wednesday in the South African capital Pretoria, said the agreement would allow humanitarian supplies to Tigray to be restored.

The peace talks began formally in Pretoria on October 25.

Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president who has been leading the African Union’s mediation team, said the implementation of the agreement would be supervised and monitored by a high-level African Union panel. He praised the process as an African solution to an African problem.

Ethiopian government representative Redwan Hussien, who is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s National Security Adviser, said all parties should be true to the letter and spirit of the agreement.

In response, Tigray delegate Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the regional authorities, spoke of the wide scale death and destruction in the region and said it was his hope and expectation that both parties would honour their commitments.

The conflict has at times spilled out of Tigray into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Neither Eritrea nor regional forces allied with the Ethiopian army took part in the talks in South Africa and it was unclear whether they would abide by the agreement reached there.

The war stems from a catastrophic breakdown in relations between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a guerrilla movement turned political party which dominated Ethiopia for 27 years, and Abiy, who was once part of their ruling coalition but whose appointment in 2018 ended the TPLF’s dominance.

Escalating tensions in 2018-20, including over Abiy’s peace deal with the TPLF’s sworn enemy Eritrea, and the TPLF’s decision to defy him by holding regional elections in Tigray that he had postponed nationwide, tipped the feuding parties into war.