It is still too early to assess exactly what the signing of the Joint Statement in South Africa will mean, or whether the Draft Cessation of Hostilities will stand or be amended. However, there are some pointers.
For a start, it is worth remembering that when the Ethiopia – Eritrea war ended with the signing of a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Algiers on 18 June 2000. It was followed on 12 December 2000 by a full Agreement that led to peace between the warring parties.
Perhaps we should all heed President Olusegun Obasanjo’s warning: yesterday’s agreement was just the first step.
Having said this, here is some comment from well-informed international analysts.
This is his Tweet, edited for clarity.
African Union, Tigray and Ethiopia have not provided a final official copy of Pretoria accord to public. A draft version now available which chimes with every word uttered by Obasanjo at news conference is being denied by Tigrayans as “unofficial”. This is not good start.
Professor Kjetil Tronvoll
These are some of his Tweets edited for clarity.
My initial reflections to the Tigray – Ethiopia peace agreement.
First, it is commendable that the parties have reached an agreement. Admittedly, this was surprising. One should sincerely hope that the agreement will pave the way for durable peace.
2/: However, the Tigray – Ethiopia peace agreement circulating (still not in signed version) leaves many questions unanswered. Although the parties have committed themselves not to question any part of the agreement, it obligates us analysts to point out some issues of concern.
2b/: A huge disclaimer here: there is confusion on which text of the agreement is authentic. The agreement I base my points on is confirmed by several internationals as authentic, but we have to wait for the full signed version to appear before one can conclude on that.
3/: Key issues are left unaddressed, i.e. status of Eritrea forces and mhara regional forces in Tigray; and the administrative status of West Tigray. One may infer some answers to these issues based on other elements in the agreement, but it opens up for ambiguity and uncertainty.
4/: The agreement ensures disarmament and demobilization of Tigray Army – the TDF. But who should provide needed security guarantees for Tigray population is left unanswered. ENDF, who has evidently committed war crimes and crimes against humanity may surely not be trusted to do this?
5/: Likewise, the agreement guarantees the protection of human rights for the Tigray civilian population – who should guarantee, monitor and ensure the compliance of this?
6/: The parties “agree and recognize that the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has only one defence force” – does this imply that Amhara, Afar and Oromo regional forces also shall be disarmed and demobilized? Or is it only the TDF?
7/: The agreement states that “ENDF shall be deployed along the international boundaries of Ethiopia.” Will they ensure that Eritrea withdraws; and if not, what then?
8/: The Ethiopian government shall undertake “to facilitate the return & reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees” – does that imply the return of 800,000 cleansed Tigrayans to West Tigray? And if so, what will happen to the 200.000 or so resettled Amharas living there?
9/: In this vein, “the Parties commit to resolving issues of contested areas in accordance with the Constitution” – what does this imply? Restore Tigray authority over territories now controlled by Amhara?
10/: Ethiopian Government: “shall ensure and facilitate the representation” of Tigray region in federal institutions /HoR: will this be TPLF representatives, or handpicked representatives of the Federal government, or based on a new election?
11/: The agreement ensures “the restoration of federal authority in Tigray” – but what about the regional authority? Will the current TPLF regional government remain as is?
12/: Ethiopian government shall ensure “accountability, ascertaining the truth, redress for victims.” The overall political and military responsible for atrocities committed against civilian population of Tigray is Abiy Ahmed. Is he willing to be put on trial, together with ENDF generals?
13/: Lastly, the agreement states that the “Legality and respect for constitutional norms and principles” shall be guiding. Does this imply that Tigray can activate Art. 39 of the Federal Constitution and ask for a referendum on independence from Ethiopia – as repeatedly promised by TPLF?
14/: Gen. Obasanjo admitted that the agreement was only the first step towards sustainable peace. The next weeks will be crucial in monitoring the parties compliance of the agreement. However, the seemingly weak and undersized AU monitoring set-up, does not bode well.
15/: The agreement only makes reference to AU in overseeing its implementation based on “African solutions to African problems” edict. It thus exempts UN and its Security Council for their responsibilities to oversee the conflict– possibly a solution favourable to both UN and AU.
16/: Let’s pray that the above & more, issues may be solved through negotiations in the coming days. However, the AU, UN, EU, US and IC, should be vigilant in monitoring the process going forward – there are plenty of spoilers around in every camp. It is too early to pop the champagne
This is from his Tweets, edited for clarity
First thoughts on the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in Ethiopia:
– After almost exactly two years of extremely blood conflict, it is a huge step forward. Estimates of direct and indirect fatalities are in the hundreds of thousands, possibly half a million (acc. to US). 1/
In contrast to the unilateral truce announced in March 2022, this is a proper written agreement that includes a monitoring, supervision and verification mechanism. AU is to appoint ten African experts and the parties to establish a joint mechanism. AU may also use satellites. 2/
The team of experts is very small, so will not be able to observe the implementation throughout the territory of Tigray. The parties can augment the number of experts though. 3/
A major win for the Federal Government is that it will take charge of the administration of Tigray, including all federal installations, and the ENDF will enter Mekelle peacefully. Elections for the Regional Council and Tigray’s representation in the HoR will be held. 4/
The TPLF can stand at the elections, as the government will lift the terrorist designation. Presumably, it can also be part of the “inclusive Interim Regional Administration” in Tigray that is to be based on the dialogue between the Parties. 5/
Furthermore, the TPLF commits to full disarmament within 30 days, beginning with heavy weapons and to be followed by light weapons, as part of a Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process. This would be very quick, given the enormous size of the Tigray Defence Forces (perhaps around 200k). 6/
The TPLF can point to Federal commitments for the restoration of basic services and unhindered humanitarian access. After more than two months of no humanitarian access, and more than a year of disrupted services, this should bring relief to the civilian population. 7/
What about Eritrea, then?
Without being mentioned by name, it is clear that the Federal Government assumes responsibility for the withdrawal of the Eritrean Defence Forces. 8/
The “use of proxies to destabilize the other party or collusion with any external force hostile to either party” (Art. 3.2) is explicitly recognized as a violation of the CoH. This should also apply to regional forces, notably from Amhara, and to the Oromo Liberation Army. 9/
The ENDF commits to protect Ethiopia’s international borders, preventing any “foreign incursion” and committing to “ensure that there will be no provocation or incursion from either side of the border”. (Art. 8.2) This is particularly relevant for the border with Eritrea. 10/
All other underlying issues will be subject to further political dialogue between the Parties, which shall begin one week after the TPLF’s terrorist designation is lifted. The status of contested territory shall be resolved according to the Ethiopian constitution. 11/
All in all, a brief but substantive agreement that reflects the recent battle gains of the ENDF in Tigray. Unlikely that this would have been possible at the start of the year.
A sequential approach with a CoH now and a political dialogue later is sensible. 12/
Still, there are many areas where it could fall apart soon. An international peacekeeping force could have helped supervise the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, the withdrawal of the Eritreans, the restoration of services, and monitoring the CoH. The small team of African experts will not suffice. 13/
The agreement is a major victory for the African Union. After biased statements, delays, and a botched first invitation, the last 10 days seem to have been hard work indeed. Expanding the mediation team, including the US as observer and South Africa as host led credibility to the process. 14/
Finally, this outcome could prove an important milestone in Ethiopia’s history, not only by ending the war, but also by doing so through a negotiated agreement, not military victory as in the past decades. 15/
This is from his Tweets, edited for clarity
It did not take 24 hours to demonstrate that Addis doesn’t consider it is committed in any way by the Pretoria signed agreement. Yesterday, “the establishment of an inclusive interim administration” was agreed on the paper.1/
Today, Ambassador General Balcha Debele says: “The Federal Government will administer Tigray Region through a command post.” He adds: “Ethiopia has prevailed.”2/