Although an agreement between warring parties in Ethiopia has allowed the people of the country’s northern region “to breathe a little hope of peace,” in the words of Bishop Tesfaselassie Medhin of Adigrat, the sick “continue without medicine, those who are hungry do not have food, [and] all those who do not have shelter continue to live in the same conditions.”
The government of Ethiopia and rebel forces in the northern region – Tigray – agreed on November 2 to what they called “a permanent cessation of hostilities” in the two-year civil war. The peace agreement was signed in Pretoria, South Africa.
A mediator in the peace talks in Pretoria, the African Union’s Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian president, stressed that the parties to the agreement were committing 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.”
In spite of that, the northern city of Adigrat is “overwhelmed by a multitude of newly displaced people who have arrived from the border areas,” said Bishop Medhin, head of the Catholic Eparchy of Adigrat. “More than 100,000 people live in the city and in the nearby villages, counting only on the help of other families. Each family is taking care of five or six other families.”
The bishop’s words were reported by Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
According to Mehdin and Kibrom Gebresellassie, executive director of the Ayder hospital in Mekelle, all the medicines supplied to the hospital under the agreement ran out in two days. The humanitarian assistance that has arrived is far from what is needed to reach the millions of people in need.
“This situation can only be resolved when the roads are reopened, when the occupying armies, whether from Eritrea or the Amhara region, leave the places and the displaced can return to their places of origin,” Bishop Mehdin said.
Neither Eritrea, the country to Ethiopia’s north, nor Ethiopia’s ethnic Amhara group, were formally represented in the peace talks. Eritrea’s troops have fought alongside the Ethiopian military in its attempt to oust the Tigray People’s Liberation Front from its stronghold. The Amhara have long claimed that western Tigray rightfully belongs to their region.
Witnesses and aid workers in Tigray told Reuters news agency recently that Eritrean forces have continued to loot towns, and arrest and kill civilians in the towns they still control in the region.