Building on Ethiopia’s Fragile Truce – Ethiopia

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A truce in Ethiopia has raised cautious optimism. As the warring parties take timid steps towards peace, the first thing to do is to bring humanitarian aid to Tigray and restore vital services. The country’s external partners should find ways to push all parties towards a compromise.

After seventeen months of fierce fighting, the main belligerents in Ethiopia’s civil war, the federal and Tigray regional governments, have recently taken a small step towards peace. On March 24, following direct contacts between the military leaders of the two parties, the federal government announced an “indefinite humanitarian truce”. Four days later, the Tigray authorities mentioned they would adhere to a cessation of hostilities, with officials in the regional capital, Mekelle, suggesting they were cautiously optimistic about the prospects for peace. The truce is not too soon. With federal and allied forces blockading the beleaguered Tigray region since the start of the war in November 2020, aid organizations have been unable to deliver aid over land consistently on the scale needed, leaving about five million people in Tigray in dire need of food and medicine. Since the truce announcements, four aid convoys have reached Tigray.

In order to ensure that the truce holds, Addis Ababa should immediately remove all obstacles to give agencies the unrestricted access they need to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation in Tigray. Federal authorities should also fully reconnect Tigray to commercial networks, the electricity grid, telecommunications and banking services. As part of subsequent ceasefire talks, Tigray forces are expected to withdraw from the parts of neighboring Afar and Amhara regions they hold. The federal government should attempt to push Amhara forces and Eritrean troops out of western Tigray and, in the case of Eritrea, northeastern Tigray. But, if the Amhara forces refuse to leave Western Tigray, the rulers of Tigray, in order to focus now on famine relief throughout the region, should accept federal and international guarantees that annexation of the region by Amhara will be dealt with later. Outside powers aware of Ethiopia’s economic difficulties should condition renewed financial support to the federal government on the above concrete steps as well as commitments to a more inclusive dialogue on the country’s future.

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