Ethiopia’s government and leaders from the country’s Tigray region agreed to a cease-fire Wednesday after a week of peace talks in South Africa. The cease-fire, if it holds, would halt a two-year civil war that has devastated much of northern Ethiopia.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who mediated the talks led by the African Union, delivered the news Wednesday in the South African capital of Pretoria.
Obasanjo congratulated both parties for agreeing to the cessation of hostilities, disarmament, as well as restoring humanitarian access to the country’s northern region.
In New York, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the ceasefire was a “welcome first step.” He said the U.N. hopes “it can bring some solace to the millions of Ethiopian civilians who have really suffered during this conflict.”
The U.N. and United States were observers in the talks that began last week.
History of conflict
The war between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began two years ago, with each party blaming the other for initiating the violence.
The roots of the dispute stretch back nearly three decades. The TPLF dominated the country’s ruling coalition until 2018 when it lost power on a national level. The current government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accused the TPLF of attempting to restore its national hold, while the TPLF accuses the government of trying to oppress Tigray, where the party retains a stronghold.
Neither side has confirmed casualty figures, but academics say the conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, many of them civilians.
Humanitarian aid has been largely blocked from reaching the region, and the U.N. estimates that upwards of 5.2 million people in Tigray are dealing with extreme food insecurity. They also lack access to medicine and other vital resources.
Agreement considered fresh start
A cease-fire was previously reached in March, but that agreement collapsed in August.
Since then, international pressure has been mounting for the warring parties to silence the guns.
Although a civil conflict, the effects have rippled throughout the Horn of Africa. Eritrean forces have entered Ethiopian territory to back the national government. Refugees fleeing the fighting spilled into neighboring countries like Sudan.
The agreement is only the beginning of the peace process, says Obasanjo, and it will allow the devastated region to begin to rebuild.
Source: Voice of America