There is mounting scepticism that the Ethiopian government’s truce will be a precursor to peace, after 16 months of a brutal civil war
Source: Daily Telegraph
ByTom Collins IN NAIROBI30 March 2022 • 9:15am
Rebel officials have warned aid still hasn’t reached Ethiopia’s conflict-ridden Tigray region, where thousands are at risk of starvation, despite the promise of a humanitarian truce last week.
On Thursday, the Ethiopian government unilaterally declared a ceasefire to allow aid trucks to access the country’s northernmost state, raising hopes of an end to a devastating 16-month civil war.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) initially agreed to a cessation of hostilities, but have since accused the central government of creating “fictitious narratives” to mislead the international community.
“Ethiopian authorities continue to saturate the airwaves with the false claim that humanitarian aid was flowing into Tigray on a daily basis,” it said in a statement on Monday.
The comments come amid mounting scepticism that the truce was a precursor to peace.
“It’s not yet clear that either the federal or Tigray governments are willing to make the necessary concessions to make this peace process work,” said William Davison, a senior analyst for Ethiopia at Crisis Group, a conflict-mitigation organisation.
“If the federal government lent all its political and military weight to the humanitarian access issue, then it could provide safe passage for the UN’s World Food Programme to consistently deliver food aid to Tigray.”
For months, aid agencies have lobbied the government to lift a blockade on the region of around seven million people, where more than 90 per cent of the population require humanitarian assistance. The last aid truck to deliver supplies to Tigray was in mid-December, forcing NGOs to deliver food and medical equipment by air.
Delivery drivers report being detained en route and three humanitarian workers from Médecins Sans Frontières were killed in June last year as they attempted to access Tigray.
The United Nations said the region requires 100 trucks a day to prevent further casualties. Researchers estimate that up to 200,000 people have already died from starvation.
Early reports over the weekend suggested that humanitarian convoys ready to depart to Tigray from Semera, the capital city of the Afar region, northeastern Ethiopia, have not yet been given the green light by Afar authorities.
Mr Davison told The Telegraph it’s unclear why officials are blocking aid deliveries when the federal government gave clearance and announced the humanitarian truce.
“The degree to which the Afar actors, at a community level and at the regional level, are operating autonomously and so independently of the federal government is hard to assess,” he said.
But analysts believe it could be linked to a complicated situation on the ground. A major roadblock to the peace process is that Tigran forces are occupying parts of Ethiopia’s Afar and Amhara regions – increasing inter-regional tensions that are separate from the dispute with the federal government.
Armed Afar and Amhara militia have fought alongside federal government troops, but they have also pursued their own objectives. The government called on Tigraian insurgents to withdraw from these areas when it announced the humanitarian truce – what is happening on the ground, however, remains hazy.
“Although it was not explicit, that may have been signalling that the federal authorities and their regional allies are insisting on Tigray’s withdrawal from those areas before aid is delivered,” said Mr Davison.
The ambiguity of the statement has led to confusion among stakeholders and humanitarian agencies about whether the truce is currently in place – and how aid should be delivered.
The hold-up has sparked fears that the famine is likely to get much worse the longer the region is cut off from aid supplies.
Concerns are also mounting that the truce may be a smokescreen for the government to get an upper hand in the conflict, despite Ethiopian officials talking publicly about peace. Hundreds of government troops have moved to a town called Kobo on Tigray’s southern border in Amhara state in recent days.
The government claims the troops are there to set up a humanitarian corridor, but local officials fear another offensive.
“Neither the people nor the regional government have adopted the truce,” said Addisu Wedajo, Kobo’s mayor. “There is a fear that we will be at risk if the federal forces move, so everyone is holding their ground.”
However, experts are increasingly at odds about predicting what will happen next in Ethiopia. The lack of information coming from the Tigray region and the conflicting messages that are regularly broadcast by both warring parties adds to a layer of uncertainty around how the conflict might develop.
Sir Howard Davies, Chairman/ Sir Philip Hampton
Mrs Alison Rose, CEO/ Mr Stephen Hester
London, EC2M 3UR
Dear Messrs & Madams:
I am writing this on behalf of over 10,000 members of my Tigrian community who prompted /rather pushed/ me to express their disappointment on the request to raise funds toward the Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Effort sent by Natwest in a generic message to our respective accounts. My community members sent their disappointment to me because I am one of the senior members of our community and a socially concerned activist here in the UK (knowing that I’ve been a Parliamentary & Councillor candidate and awarded teacher in London).
We do recognize what has befallen the Ukrainian people and sympathize with their plights, however, the reason why our community is disappointed by Natwest’s message is that the bank’ seems to have disregarded the genocidal war still raging in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. We do not believe that Natwest officers are not aware of what is going on in the Horn of Africa, as you can see in the attached list of links and a video in which innocent youngsters were burned alive (as recently as last week).
The only person that has shown some understanding and sympathy among all your thousands of employees is Ms. Sharon who works at your Peckham Branch, by contributing £100 out of her own purse. However, the rest of you instead of leaving us to lick our wounds, your bank dropped salt on our lesion, by asking us to raise funds for Ukraine. The genocidal war in Tigray was going on for the last 16 solid months (to date) and during this time: over 250,000 civilians have been massacred, reported over 75, 000 females (from 6- 80 years old) have been gang-raped, all essential utilities (banking, water, food, power, telephone, medicine) have been blocked for last 10 months, daily 50-75 babies & children are dying due to lack of basic food, 100-200 elders & chronic patients are dying due to lack of medicine, over 2 million people have been displaced (internally & externally).
Although the international community (The UN, the UK government, the EU) including some big banks have expressed their concern about the Tigray situation; however, not a single visible action has been taken yet. To make matters worse, Natwest is asking us to donate to Ukraine’s cause when they never asked us for a similar charity to rescue even one life in Tigray. We are prompted to raise this disappointment believing that Natwest has a policy of treating its customers or world citizens on equal par, whatever colour, creed, customs, or regional origin they may have. To refresh your memories please see the attached video & listed links and I would like to warn you that some of the pictures are too gruesome for light-hearted individuals, let alone for children.
Alex Berhanu (Mr)- Natwest customer for over 30 years.
On Behalf of Tigrian Community in the UK