The Ethiopian government has agreed to end the two-year conflict with rebel forces in the country’s northern Tigray region.
The agreement on the “permanent cessation of hostilities” was reached on Wednesday, at a meeting in South Africa, after the latest round of peace talks convened by the African Union (AU).
Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian president and AU envoy, who led the on-and-off negotiations for more than a year, described the agreement as the beginning of peace.
“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities. This moment is not the end of the peace process but the beginning of it,” he said.
“Implementation of the peace agreement signed today is critical to the success of the process.”
Millions of people have been displaced by the fighting between both parties, which started in November 2020.
The fighting began after forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which was the nation’s pre-eminent power broker for decades before being sidelined by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, reportedly attacked a federal army base.
The conflict has drawn in neighbouring Eritrea, which supports Ahmed, and spilled over into Sudan, where thousands of civilians have taken refuge.
All combatants have committed abuses, according to United Nations human rights investigators, who recently singled out the Ethiopian government as using “starvation of civilians” as a weapon of war.
Meanwhile, months after an earlier cease-fire, violence broke out again as both sides traded accusations of staging new assaults.
In a statement issued following the agreement, the Ethiopian prime minister said the country remains committed to peace.
“The agreement signed today in South Africa is monumental in moving Ethiopia forward on the path of the reforms we embarked upon four and half years ago. Our commitment to peace remains steadfast. And our commitment to collaborating for the implementation of the agreement is equally strong,” the statement reads.
“On behalf of the people and Government of Ethiopia, I would like to express my gratitude to the African Union Commission and the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa His Excellency former President Olusegun Obasanjo, together with esteemed members of the high representative’s team; His Excellency former President Uhuru Kenyatta and Her Excellency Dr. Phumuzile Mlalmbo, former Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa.
“I would also like to thank His Excellency Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission for spearheading the AU’s principled position of ‘African Solutions to African Problems’.
“To my dear brother His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa, Ethiopia is grateful to you and the sisterly nation of South Africa for hosting these talks to their successful conclusion.
“I would like to express appreciation to friends of Ethiopia that have taken an active role in supporting the conclusion of this agreement. We count on your continued support in reconstructing conflict affected areas in the Northern part of the country and an enhanced partnership with Ethiopia in our countrywide development endeavors.
“Last but not least, to the brave members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and the courageous people of this nation that stood a testing period, I humbly share deepest gratitude.”