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Despite uncertainty, Catholic voices welcome Ethiopia peace deal as 5M people need food



Redwan Hussien Rameto (L), Representative of the Ethiopian government, and Getachew Reda (R), Representative of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), exhange documents after signing a peace agreement between the two parties during a press conference regarding the African Union-led negotiations to resolve conflict in Ethiopia at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) offices in Pretoria.

John Burger - published on 11/03/22

"May the war fields turn into school grounds where children would jump and play peacefully.”

A peace agreement hammered out between warring parties in Ethiopia will allow the resumption of humanitarian shipments into the Tigray region of the country, said the mediator of the talks. 

The mediator, the African Union’s Olusegun Obasanjo, welcomed delegates from the Ethiopian government and the Tigray forces to a signing ceremony November 2 in Pretoria, South Africa.

The government of Ethiopia and rebel forces in Tigray agreed on Wednesday to what they called “a permanent cessation of hostilities” in the two-year civil war. Talks began October 25. 

“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities,” said Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president. “This moment is not the end of the peace process,” he added, “but the beginning of it.”

Obasanjo stressed that with this agreement, the parties commit to “a permanent cessation of hostilities, an orderly, regular and coordinated disarmament, as well as the restoration of public order and services, in addition to unhindered access to humanitarian aid and the protection of women and children.”

The war has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.

Argaw Fantu, regional director in Ethiopia for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, said that when the date for the peace talks was announced three weeks ago, “it was enthusiastically welcomed by the peace-loving people with great expectation and hope to attain lasting peace, and to hear the end of atrocities of the war in the country for no good cause.”

Wednesday’s news of an agreement, “after 10 days of very tight and closed talks,” he said, “is a great good news for peace-loving people of Ethiopia.”

“I can confidently say in short, ‘the truth has won’ and the prayer for peace of many devoted people is heard from above,” Fantu told Aleteia.


Getachew Reda, who represented Tigray at the peace talks, spoke of the widescale death and destruction in the region and said it was his hope and expectation that both parties would honor their commitments, Reuters said

The agreement contains provisions for disarming fighters and permitting humanitarian supplies to reach Tigray, where five million people urgently need food aid.

“But mediators warned that it was just the first step in what would most likely be difficult negotiations before a permanent peace could be achieved. It was unclear how the deal’s provisions would be monitored or carried out. And negotiators cautioned that forces inside and outside Ethiopia could yet derail the process and tip the country back into war,” the New York Times noted

Not all fighting parties participated …

What bears watching is whether two entities which took part in the fighting will cooperate – Eritrea, the country to Ethiopia’s north, and Ethiopia’s ethnic Amhara group, both of which were not formally represented in the peace talks. 

“The autocratic leader of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, has for decades harbored a bitter rivalry with the leaders of Tigray. It was unclear if he had agreed to the deal signed in South Africa and, crucially, if he would withdraw his troops from the region,” the Times said. “Equally uncertain was the political reception by the leaders of Ethiopia’s ethnic Amhara group, who provided crucial political and military support to [Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed] Abiy in his campaign against the Tigrayans. They have long claimed that western Tigray, where Ethiopian forces were accused of ethnic cleansing, rightfully belongs to the Amhara region.”

The war, which broke out in November 2020, pits regional forces from Tigray against Ethiopia’s federal army and its allies, who include forces from other regions and from neighboring Eritrea, Reuters explained. 

“The war stems from a catastrophic breakdown in relations between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a guerrilla movement turned political party which dominated Ethiopia for 27 years, and Abiy, who was once part of their ruling coalition but whose appointment in 2018 ended the TPLF’s dominance,” said Reuters. “Escalating tensions in 2018-20, including over Abiy’s peace deal with the TPLF’s sworn enemy Eritrea, and the TPLF’s decision to defy him by holding regional elections in Tigray that he had postponed nationwide, tipped the feuding parties into war.”

Fantu, of CNEWA, hopes that the peace agreement will be a “vital instrument to reduce – and possibly stop – human atrocities, allow access possibilities to serve the suffering poor people who have nothing to do with politics but are gravely victimized, and encourage resuming lasting peace for mothers, children and the elderly in particular and to the country and the Horn of Africa in general.”

“May our leaders be able to have wisdom and vision for the better future of young people,” he said. “May the artilleries change into innovative tools that indicate a bright future for young people and humanity, may the war fields turn into school grounds where children would jump and play peacefully.”

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