HORN OF AFRICAAFRICAETHIOPIA

 

Source: Washington Post

The deadliest killings occurred at the Mirab Abaya prison camp, where current and retired Tigrayan soldiers were detained

By Katharine Houreld

December 4, 2022 at 2:00 a.m. EST

Then the killings began.

By sunset the next day, around 83 prisoners were dead and another score missing,according to six survivors. Some were shot by their guards, others hacked to death by villagers who taunted the soldiers about their Tigrayan ethnicity, prisoners said. Bodies were dumped in a mass grave by the prison gate, according to seven witnesses.

“They were stacked on top of each other like wood,” recounted one detainee who said he saw the aftermath of the slaughter.

The massacre at the camp near Mirab Abaya, which was covered up and has not been previously reported, was the deadliest killing of imprisoned soldiers since the war started, but not the only one. Guards have killed imprisoned soldiers in at least seven other locations, according to witnesses, who were among more than two dozen people interviewed for this story. None of these incidents have been previously reported either.

The dead were all Tigrayans, members of an ethnic group that dominated the Ethiopian government and military for nearly three decades. That changed after Abiy Ahmed was appointed prime minister of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most-populous nation, in 2018. Relations between Abiy and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) quickly nosedived. War broke out in 2020 after Tigrayan soldiers in the Ethiopian army and other Tigrayan forces seized military bases across the Tigray region.

Fearing further attacks, the government detained thousands of Tigrayan soldiers serving elsewhere in the country. They have been held in prison camps for nearly two years with no access to their families, phones or human rights monitors. Other Tigrayan soldiers were disarmed when war broke out but continued working in office jobs. Many of them were detained in November 2021 as Tigrayan forces advanced toward the capital, Addis Ababa.

Most of the killings, including the massacre at Mirab Abaya, happened then. Prisoners speculated the attacks might have been triggered by fear or revenge. None of the soldiers killed had been combatants fighting against the Ethiopians and thus prisoners of war.

In some prisons, senior Ethiopian military officers either ordered the killings or were present when they occurred, prisoners said. Elsewhere, imprisoned soldiers said they continue to be guarded — and beaten — by those who killed their comrades.

While there is little sign that the killings were centrally coordinated, there is evidence of widespread impunity. Only in Mirab Abaya did officers intervene to stop the killing.

These newly revealed details come as both sides in the conflict are hammering out details of a cease-fire, announced last month, that has been met with suspicion among the population over a range of issues, including whether there will be accountability for war crimes and other atrocities. How the government responds to the revelations of prison killings could suggest how it will treat other abuses allegedly committed by security forces.

The witness accounts also illuminate how the ethnic divisions tearing at Ethiopia’s society are also eroding its military, once widely respected as one of the region’s most professional and still often relied upon by Ethiopia’s neighbors to help keep the peace. Many of those killed in the prisons were among the thousands of Ethiopian troops who have served in international peacekeeping missions under the United Nations or African Union.

This article’s account of the bloodletting is based on 26 interviews with prisoners, medical personnel, officials, local residents and relatives, and on a review of satellite imagery, social media posts and medical records. Two lists of the dead were provided separately to The Washington Post, and both included the same 83 names. The identities of 16 victims were verified during interviews with detainees. All witnesses spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

When asked about these accounts, Col. Getnet Adane, a spokesman for the Ethiopian military, said he was too busy to comment. A government spokesman and the prime minister’s spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment. The state-appointed head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, said the panel was aware of the incident and had been investigating it.

Bullets and machetes

About 2,000 to 2,500 serving or retired Tigrayan soldiers, both men and women,were being held at the new prison camp about half an hour’s walk north of the town of Mirab Abaya, in a sparsely populated area dotted with banana plantations and near a large, crocodile-infested lake. Some buildings were so new they didn’t even have doors. But the camp hadguard towers and demarcated boundaries. Guards told prisoners they would be shot if they crossed the line.

In mid-November 2021, a new prisoner — a just-married major who worked in the military’s defense construction division — was badly injured by guards when he went outside his cell at night to urinate, six other detainees said. He was beaten badly. Some said he was shot in the stomach. Guards later told prisoners that he died on the way to the hospital.

Over the following days, tensions continued to mount with reports —later confirmed by rights activists — that Tigrayan fighters in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region were killing and raping as they advanced toward the capital.

But on Nov. 21, the Mirab Abaya camp seemed calm, prisoners said. Many had been basking in the late afternoon sun when between 16 and 18 guards opened fire.

One prisoner said that he had been near two women when they were shot in the toilet.

“One woman died immediately, and the other was calling out, ‘My son, my son!’ Then they fired another bullet, and she died,” hesaid. “They [the guards] wanted to kill everyone there.”

One of the women was a major in the Ethiopian ground forces. She was around 50, had served as a peacekeeper in Sudan and had a son and a daughter, according to the witness. Other detainees said the second woman had worked in the Ministry of Defense.

A senior Tigrayan officer said he was inside his cell when he heard gunshots. He stuffed clothes and belongings into a bag. He decided to run if he could.

“I was thinking: ‘Will I ever see my kids? See them succeed in school and have the good things of life?’ ” he said. If he couldn’t run, he would fight, he said. He and his cellmates looked for a stick or anything else to use as a weapon.

A third prisoner said he began to pray.

Not all guards took part in the killing. A fourth prisoner described one guard taking up a position outside the cells and telling the attackers he would shoot them if they came for the detainees inside. That guard was crying, the prisoner said, and was inconsolable for days afterward. Another prisoner said some guards had tried to disarm the attackers.

Yet another prisoner said he was having coffee outside when shots rang out. Like many others, he ran into the surrounding bush. Ethiopian soldiers pursued his small group, he said. After running more than an hour, he said, they saw some locals. The prisoners blurted out that they’d been shot at and begged for help.

“They said … ‘We will show you what you deserve.’ And then they attacked us,” he said.

A crowd of about 150 to 200 people hacked and bludgeoned the escapees with machetes, sticks and stones, he recalled. Most were killed as they begged for mercy, he said, adding that he was hurt badly and left for dead. During the attack, he said, he saw other prisoners run into the lake to escape the mobs.

Other detainees confirmed that there had been machete attacks on those who escaped the prison. They said residents screamed abuse at the escapees and had incorrectly been told they were prisoners of war and to blame for the deaths of local men in the military. Two prisoners said the attacks continued into the next day.

The shooting at the prison stopped an hour or two after it began when Col. Girma Ayele of the Southern Command arrived. By then, prisoners said, the camp was littered with the bodies of the dead and the earth slick with blood. Girma could not be reached for comment.

The Dejen division

The massacre inside the prison was committed by about 18 guards, including a woman, said the six prisoners at Mirab Abaya who were interviewed. These guards and just over a third of the victims came from the same unit: the Dejen army division, formerly known as the 17th Division. It’s stationed in Addis Ababa.

Many Tigrayan soldiers speculated during interviews that the attack was motivated by revenge. Most of the guards who did the killing were from the Amhara region, which Tigrayan forces had invaded as they pushed toward the capital.

Girma told the prisoners these guards were not under his direct control and had been arrested, detainees said. The guards’ status could not be confirmed. The prisoners never saw them again.

A day after the killing, an excavator dug a mass grave just outside the main watchtower at the entrance gate, perhaps 200 meters from the road, according to the six prisoners.

Among those buried was Maj. Meles Belay Gidey, an engineer passionate about his teaching job at the Defense Engineering College. When Meles was serving as a U.N. peacekeeper in Abyei, a disputed area between Sudan and South Sudan, he video-called his two teenage sons and his stepdaughter every evening to talk to them about school, a relative said.

A local resident traveling past the prison camp the next day said the military warned passersby not to take pictures of the grave.

In Mirab Abaya town, officials used loudspeakers mounted on cars to warn the local population that escapees should be killed. The local resident said he saw three or four people attacked near a banana grove and about a dozen bodies bleeding in the streets, some scattered near the church of St. Gabriel. Ethiopian soldiers nearby did not intervene, he said.

The resident also said he saw a man in his mid-20s being beaten by a mob. Both of his hands had been cut off, and his legs were bleeding. The man begged to be killed as he was dragged up and down the street, the resident said. The attackers told the man they would kill him as slowly as possible. Eventually, he was dragged to the camp gate and shot. Another body was being dragged behind a motorbike, the resident said.

“I couldn’t do anything because I feared for my life,” he said.

Ethiopian soldiers take strategic city in Tigray amid civilian exodus

Wounded Tigrayans were taken to three hospitals, survivors said: Arba Minch General Hospital, Soddo Christian Hospital and another hospital in Soddo. Two medical professionals at Arba Minch General Hospital described an influx of patients around 9 p.m. on Nov. 21. One worker shared medical records showing that 19 patients were admitted with bullet wounds and that 15 were discharged the next day. Two died in the hospital and four were dead on arrival, the two medical workers said.

Most of the patients were kept for only a few hours despite life-threatening wounds, the two said. The patients were kept under police guard, both medical professionals said, and they described nurses and other medical staff taunting the wounded about their ethnicity.

Killings in other prisons

Mirab Abaya was not the only prison where imprisoned soldiers were killed. Current and former prisoners said in interviews that they had witnessed guards killing prisoners at Garbassa training center and the headquarters of the 13th Division in the eastern city of Jigjiga; in prisons in Wondotika and Toga near the southern city of Hawassa; in the southern area of Didessa; and at the Bilate training center in the south. Many of the victims had served as peacekeepers in U.N. missions in Sudan, Abyei or South Sudan or as part of an African Union force in Somalia.

At Wondotika, a detainee said guards had killed five prisoners at facility that holds hundreds of soldiers who are mostly special forces or commandos. The victims included Gebremariam Estifanos, a veteran of a peacekeeping mission in Abyei and an African Union mission in Somalia, who was beaten to death Nov. 8, 2021, in the presence of a colonel and lieutenant colonel from the 103rd Division, a prisoner said. Gebremariam’s biggest wish had been to buy his family a house and his father an ox, the prisoner said. Two other detainees confirmed the account, saying guards often taunted the prisoners about the incident.

Both said that guards had often forced prisoners to dig their own graves, telling them they would soon be killed. The four other soldiers were killed later in November, shot so many times that their bodies were torn to pieces by bullets, the first prisoner said.

“We are beaten and threatened. We have served our country with honor and dignity,” that prisoner said. “I regret my service.”

In Toga prison, guards beat and then shot two Tigrayan soldiers on Nov. 4, a detainee there said. A second prisoner held at Toga, a former peacekeeper who served in Somalia, confirmed two killings. In Garbassa, two prisoners said six detainees had been killed and others injured so badly they had lost the use of limbs and eyes.

“I have seen the bodies being dragged from their rooms,” said a detainee there.

Three prisoners — one from the presidential guard and two from the Agazi commandos — were killed in July 2021 in Bilate training center after guards accused them of attempting to escape, said a witness previously held there. He described soldiers shooting at their bodies long after they were dead and throwing the corpses outside for the hyenas. And in a detention center near Didessa, near Nekemte town, at least five soldiers were killed and 30 others taken away and never seen again, a prisoner previously held there said.

He broke down as he listed the names he could remember. “I’m so sorry, they were my friends,” he said.

An airstrike on a kindergarten and the end to Ethiopia’s uneasy peace

Two imprisoned soldiers, accused of having mobile phones, were also killed by guards at a detention center in eastern Ethiopia between Harar and Dire Dawa, a witness said.

The imprisoned Tigrayan soldiers interviewed by The Post say none of them have had access to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Until a few days ago, their families had no idea what had become of them. At the end of October, the families of some soldiers killed in Mirab Abaya were informed about their deaths. Several relatives were told their loved ones had died honorable deaths in the line of duty. No other details were given.

Some of the survivors of the Mirab Abaya massacre who are still held there said they fear another outbreak of violence.

“I have a prayer book,” one prisoner there said. “Every day I pray to Mary to see my family again.”

NAIROBI — The scent of coffee and cigarettes hung in the hot afternoon air in a makeshift Ethiopian prison camp, prisoners said, as detained Tigrayan soldiers celebrated the holy day of Saint Michael in November 2021. Some joked with friends outside the corrugated iron buildings. Others quietly prayed to be reunited with families they had not seen in a year, when conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

On 18 September 2001 the Eritrean government banned all independent media outlets and incarcerated all but the most compliant journalists. They have never been tried, but have not been forgotten, even though their whereabouts are not known.

Only the Eritrean government’s own rigidly controlled media is allowed to operate. Now an exhibition is being staged in the British Parliament, to commemorate their work and their suffering.

The exhibition is being mounted by Eritrea Focus, PEN Eritrea and Amnesty International. Here the exhibition is going up, on the floor where the Parliament’s Committee room are located so that all parliamentarians will see them.

Martin Plaut

Nov 23

To keep the fledgling peace process on track, the AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a Horn of Africa regional body, need to continue coordinating efforts with African governments and other outside actors like the U.S., UN and European Union (EU). Collectively, they should urge Tigray’s leaders and the federal government to uphold their commitments in the peace deals, working first to ensure Eritrean troops’ withdrawal, lest Tigray use their continued presence as a reason to delay disarmament.

International Crisis Group

Source: International Crisis Group 23 NOVEMBER 2022

On 2 November, Ethiopia’s federal government and leaders of the country’s northern Tigray region agreed to end two years of devastating war. The welcome deal, brokered by the African Union (AU) in the South African capital Pretoria, was a triumph for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as Tigray’s embattled leaders assented to disarm their forces and restore federal authority in the region. In exchange, the Ethiopian military, and Eritrean troops who had been fighting alongside federal forces, halted their advance toward Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, and Addis Ababa said it would end its de facto siege of the region. In follow-up talks, Tigray authorities secured an additional pledge that Eritrean forces would withdraw. Fighting between the two sides has stopped. Yet the fragile calm could shatter, especially with thorny questions outstanding and Tigrayans already backtracking on commitments. Both sides need to honour their pledges while keeping up momentum in talks. External actors must seize this moment to coax the parties toward consolidating peace and insist on immediate unrestricted aid to Tigray.

The conflict, among the world’s deadliest, erupted in Africa’s second-most populous country in late 2020, as Ethiopia struggled to navigate a complex political transition. Abiy rose to power in 2018, after three years of protests partly against the rule of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which had dominated Ethiopia for almost three decades, creating a repressive system that brought development gains but bred discontent. The TPLF believe that Abiy’s government sidelined them, cutting them out of a rapprochement with their former comrade and then archenemy, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and singling out Tigrayans for prosecution for corruption and human rights offences. For their part, Abiy’s allies argue that the TPLF never accepted losing power, blocked reforms and sought to sabotage the new authorities. As the power struggle simmered, Mekelle’s leaders proceeded in 2020 with regional elections in Tigray, in defiance of federal authorities, who had postponed the vote due to COVID-19. The constitutional crisis escalated when the federal and Tigray governments cast each other as illegitimate.

On 3 November 2020, saying they feared an imminent federal military intervention, Tigray’s forces attacked the national army command in the region.

The standoff soon boiled over. On 3 November 2020, saying they feared an imminent federal military intervention, Tigray’s forces attacked the national army command in the region (some Tigrayan federal officers sided with the regional forces). Addis Ababa promptly launched an offensive in Tigray, blocking all roads into the region, starving it of food and other supplies and cutting off telecommunications, electricity and banking services – an approach that left almost all of Tigray’s roughly six million people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. In the war’s first few months, the neighbouring Amhara region took control of Western Tigray, which it claims as historical Amhara territory, in a campaign that rights groups described as ethnic cleansing. Eritrea also joined the battle on the federal side, with Isaias seemingly hoping to deal his old foe, the TPLF, a decisive blow.

Momentum seesawed over the course of the war. At the outset, Ethiopia’s military, backed by Eritrean troops and foreign drones, captured Mekelle and forced the TPLF into the mountains, only to hastily retreat as Tigray insurgents (motivated in part by atrocities committed by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers against civilians) retook the regional capital in June. Citing the continuing blockade, Tigray’s forces marched southward to Addis Ababa, occupying towns and committing their own atrocities along the way. With supply lines stretched, they withdrew to Tigray in December 2021, after a federal counteroffensive gained pace, with mass mobilisation and drones purchased from Turkey playing key roles. An uneasy lull in fighting then settled in. In March, the federal government declared a unilateral humanitarian truce, speeding up delivery of food and medicine to Tigray. The TPLF also held its fire. But efforts to start formal peace talks foundered, partly because Mekelle said Addis Ababa must first end its blockade by restoring services to the region and allowing trade.

The war tipped decisively in the federal government’s favour after the truce broke down on 24 August, and full-scale conflict re-erupted. Ethiopia rapidly assembled a large number of troops to attack Tigray on several fronts, moving in with Eritrean forces from the north west and leading an offensive with Amhara allies from the south. By all accounts, there were huge casualties in spectacularly bloody infantry warfare, with sources close to both sides estimating that more than 100,000 died on the battlefield in a two-month span. Though Tigray’s fighters stood their ground at first, the allied forces broke through their lines in October in key locations, capturing the northern cities of Shire (a strategic crossroads), Aksum and Adwa, as well as the southern towns of Alamata and Korem. On the back foot militarily, Tigray’s leaders then called for another truce, lowering their conditions to unfettered aid access and Eritrean forces’ withdrawal, leading the AU to convene the two parties in Pretoria.

Tigray’s negotiators went to South Africa desperate for a pause in fighting, and reaching that goal came at a high price. Indeed, the deal’s terms reflect the heavy military pressure Tigray’s forces were under in the face of Eritrean artillery and superior federal logistics, manpower and firepower, including in the air. In the deal, the TPLF committed to laying down arms within 30 days and allowing federal forces to re-enter Mekelle in order to restore constitutional order and take control of federal institutions. The deal also stipulates that, once Ethiopia’s parliament has lifted its May 2021 designation of the TPLF as a terrorist organisation, the TPLF and the federal government are to appoint an “inclusive” interim administration to govern Tigray until elections. This provision represents a significant concession, as it implies that Tigray’s September 2020 regional polls, which the TPLF won in a landslide and which helped spark the civil war, lacked legitimacy. For its part, the federal government agreed to halt its offensive upon Mekelle, while also promising to restore services to Tigray, as well as allow unfettered aid deliveries.

Tigray’s leaders appear to have eventually realised that ending the conflict is the best way to ease the Tigray population’s suffering.

None of the parties has come out of the war with credit. For Tigray’s negotiators, the extent of concessions offered to secure a truce illustrates the scope of the predicament they found themselves in, besieged on all sides by determined adversaries, including two national armies. While both sides share blame for starting the conflict, the TPLF miscalculated – at a cost of countless lives – first by escalating its feud with Abiy after losing power, next by underestimating its opponents and plunging into war, and then by erecting obstructions to peace talks during the autumn lull in fighting. Tigray’s leaders appear to have eventually realised that ending the conflict is the best way to ease the Tigray population’s suffering. As for Addis Ababa, it has rightly attracted international opprobrium for its methods, including what UN investigators found to be the use of starvation as a tool of war against Tigray’s civilians. In the end, though, Abiy’s government also chose peace, opting to halt an offensive that appeared to be on the brink of forcing the TPLF from power again and instead advance federal objectives through talks.

The parties showed early commitment to the Pretoria pact, a positive sign. Most importantly, the two battle-exhausted sides have stopped fighting, although unconfirmed reports continue to filter through of serious abuses in and around Axum and Shire by Eritrean and Amhara forces. Addis and Mekelle also followed through on a commitment for top military commanders to meet within five days to negotiate how to put the Pretoria accord’s security provisions into effect, producing a follow-up agreement on 12 November in Nairobi. 

That subsequent deal maintained critical momentum but also created more uncertainty and diluted disarmament plans. Instead of the ambitious, perhaps even unrealistic, original 30-day timeline, the Nairobi deal gave Mekelle more breathing space, splitting disarmament into two phases and, crucially, tying it to foreign and other non-federal forces’ withdrawal. For the Tigrayans, the pull out of Eritrean troops – the foreign forces the deal refers to, even if not explicitly – is a core demand that was less clearly addressed in Pretoria (that deal said, for example, the parties would cease “collusion with an external force hostile” to the other). The military commanders agreed Tigray would give up “heavy weapons” (presumably tanks and artillery) as non-federal forces withdraw from the region, while punting the timeline for relinquishing small arms to talks due to conclude on 26 November. The parties also agreed to disengage their front-line forces in four distinct zones by 23 November (thus far this appears incomplete), after which Addis Ababa is to restore basic services to the region, while assuming its federal “responsibilities”.

The Nairobi agreement, however, included no precise terms as to how or when Tigray’s leaders would meet their commitment to facilitate the federal military’s re-entry into Mekelle, suggesting that they also won some reprieve from honouring that pledge. Tigray leaders now insist privately that this step might entail a limited security escort for returning federal officials, which would be a far cry from the triumphal procession that the Pretoria accord seemed to envision. With no progress made so far at re-establishing the federal presence in Tigray’s capital, this issue requires further negotiation.

It is far from clear that Tigray is planning to hand over all its arms even if Addis Ababa meets its obligations.

For all the positive developments, the situation thus remains fragile, demanding extreme vigilance from all actors. There are signs that Tigray’s leaders are wavering on the Pretoria accord’s critical terms. Hesitation on their part would, perhaps, not be surprising, given the deal’s lopsided nature, but it would nonetheless be alarming. It is far from clear that Tigray is planning to hand over all its arms even if Addis Ababa meets its obligations. Further, in a 13 November statement, issued the day after the Nairobi agreement, Tigray’s leaders publicly backtracked on parts of the Pretoria deal, including by explicitly rejecting its effective removal of the existing regional government from power. It is unclear if they are posturing to deflect internal criticism of their initial concessions in Pretoria or to position themselves for future negotiations. But regardless, the statement suggests willingness to renege on a key part of the accord, namely that Tigray’s authorities would step aside for an interim administration negotiated between the TPLF and the federal government.

Despite the odd unhelpful comment from his allies, Prime Minister Abiy has publicly welcomed the deal and stressed that more war would be futile. Such remarks are welcome, as sustained provocations from both sides otherwise risk undermining the frail accord by emboldening hardliners, perpetuating the deep mistrust and making a return to war more likely. For example, should the federal government move slowly on lifting all aspects of the blockade (perhaps in response to Mekelle’s backtracking on some of Pretoria’s terms), Tigray’s leaders could stall on disarmament, especially if the Eritrean army or Amhara forces linger in Tigray. That, in turn, would lead Addis Ababa to refuse to fully reconnect and reopen Tigray, creating conditions in which any spark might ignite yet another round of disastrous large-scale hostilities.

A further concern is that the two sides do not yet appear to share compatible visions for how a settlement will emerge, making clear how delicate the process will be. Tigray’s leaders want Abiy to pivot away from his alliance with Isaias. Yet it seems safer to assume that Addis Ababa will want to avoid ruffling the feathers of either the Eritrean leader or Amhara allies. Both Abiy and Isaias could well choose, at least for now, to keep their forces ready for renewed hostilities, thereby keeping Tigray’s authorities boxed in militarily. Further, Tigray’s leaders hope that, eventually, the federal government will allow much of their military force to join the federal army or re-hat as regional security forces. Whether Abiy will pursue integration is a matter of conjecture, however. Some think he could do so to help rebuild the Ethiopian military, while others suggest he will prefer to keep Tigray forces that have just tried to oust him out of the national army. Continuing to make incremental progress, at the negotiating table but also with tangible measures on the ground, will thus be key to preventing the rickety process from falling apart.

Abiy faces an especially thorny balancing act with regard to Eritrea, a key partner in the war that may be satisfied only by Tigray’s almost complete disarmament. Indeed, it will be difficult if not impossible for Abiy to accommodate both Asmara’s insistence that the TPLF be defanged and, on the other hand, Tigray’s security demands. It remains unclear if Eritrea will fully disengage its forces or withdraw, even if Abiy asks it to do so. Should Abiy move to let the TPLF continue as a dominant force in Mekelle, allow Tigray to retain a strong regional force, or integrate large numbers of Tigray’s perhaps 200,000 fighters into the federal military, Eritrea could react defiantly. More than two decades after the last Ethiopian-Eritrean war, new hostilities remain possible if Abiy and Isaias fall out, an additional factor showcasing just how complex the peace process could prove.

Abiy will also need to tread carefully in relations with Amhara political leaders, his other major ally in the war – and an important domestic constituency. The Nairobi accord appears to require Amhara regional forces and militias (the other “non-federal forces” it cites), which have been fighting alongside the Ethiopian army, to also withdraw from Tigray. Yet Amhara regional authorities will be keen not to lose out in the peace process. The complicating factor is Tigray’s loss of territory to Amhara during the war, as Amhara forces captured Western and Southern Tigray, which many Amhara refer to as Welkait and Raya, respectively, in asserting historical claims to the territories. Addis Ababa and Mekelle are unlikely to see eye to eye on the withdrawal of Amhara forces from what the Pretoria agreement called “contested areas” (without specifying which areas these are), a major dispute that could gum up disarmament negotiations.

Ideally, over time, Tigray and Amhara leaders would recognise the need to resolve their differences through dialogue.

What is clear is that the process for addressing these competing territorial claims will need to be central to further political dialogue, as envisaged in Pretoria. One approach could be for the federal government to assert control over the areas, paving the way for the return of displaced people and political processes to adjudicate the disputes. Such a move would infuriate Amhara leaders and activists while failing to placate Mekelle, which would doubtless argue that returning to the constitutional order means restoring Tigray’s pre-war borders. Still, an initial assertion of federal control, if that can be done peacefully, may be the most pragmatic option for the time being. Ideally, over time, Tigray and Amhara leaders would recognise the need to resolve their differences through dialogue, including through provisions for administering the areas that navigate the competing claims and complex local identities. 

Should the peace agreement hold, the parties will also need to negotiate on the make-up of Tigray’s administration. Addis Ababa is in a strong position to dictate the political terms in Tigray, but that would be risky given the region’s historical attachment to autonomy, which long predates the federal era. To foster stability, federal leaders should strive to ensure that Tigray’s rights to self-rule under the constitution (which offers considerable regional autonomy, even legalising secession) are respected as constitutional order is restored.Thus, Addis Ababa should avoid imposing an interim administration that is likely to breed continued resistance. For its part, the TPLF needs to accept that a new regional government will be formed in line with the Pretoria deal, which will mean dilution of its authority. Some Tigray nationalist opposition parties that will demand a governing role have offered stinging criticism of the TPLF’s Pretoria concessions and aspire to independence, a sign of how difficult it will be to create a balance within the interim government and reintegrate Tigray into Ethiopia after such a divisive war.

To keep the fledgling peace process on track, the AU and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a Horn of Africa regional body, need to continue coordinating efforts with African governments and other outside actors like the U.S., UN and European Union (EU). Collectively, they should urge Tigray’s leaders and the federal government to uphold their commitments in the peace deals, working first to ensure Eritrean troops’ withdrawal, lest Tigray use their continued presence as a reason to delay disarmament. Should verified withdrawals start to occur, they must then stress to Tigray’s leaders the need to begin handing over their tanks and artillery. While remaining clear-eyed about the challenges, the U.S., UN and EU envoys and other partners should constantly remind their Ethiopian interlocutors that they have chosen the path of peace, as there is no route to outright military victory. A return to war would have terrible consequences for civilians and corrode Ethiopia’s stability for years to come.

The AU and regional officials have an especially vital role to play in trying to ensure that the truce does not break down. The AU’s high representative, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and co-mediators former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, as well as key IGAD officials, especially its Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu (a former Ethiopian foreign minister) and Special Envoy Mohamed Ali Guyo (a veteran Kenyan diplomat), now face a tall order. They will need to keep the parties progressing toward fulfilling their promises, while also ensuring that talks, including about a detailed disarmament plan, maintain forward momentum. Given especially the lack of trust between the parties, an AU team of experts should immediately start monitoring the truce, as agreed in the Pretoria deal. Foreign governments should provide as much support as possible to what on paper looks like a severely under-resourced monitoring mission.

All international actors should push in unison for immediate unrestricted humanitarian access to Tigray.

All international actors should push in unison for immediate unrestricted humanitarian access to Tigray, even as initial indications give reason for modest optimism. To further hold the parties accountable, donors, the UN and NGOs should be transparent about whether or not the federal government and its regional allies are still choking humanitarian access, and insist also on services being comprehensively restored. They should also speak out if Tigray’s authorities divert humanitarian supplies to their forces, as occurred just prior to the last round of fighting, when Mekelle seized World Food Programme tankers, saying the agency had not returned fuel Tigray had loaned it.

The U.S., EU and other outside actors also need to carefully weigh how to keep encouraging progress through their actions. To make the dividends of peace more concrete, the U.S. and EU should pledge donor conferences to help rebuild a peaceful Tigray as well as adjacent parts of Afar and Amhara affected by the war. They should take care to balance the need to continue protecting the budding process with the urgency of providing assistance to Ethiopia’s suffering economy. In particular, they should resume substantial non-humanitarian financial support to Addis Ababa only after the peace process has made clear, tangible progress. That means waiting until Eritrean forces withdraw behind the internationally recognised border, the federal government restores services to Tigray, aid flows freely and political talks with Mekelle get under way.

Despite the difficulties of roping Eritrea into a constructive peace process, the AU and other African intermediaries should reach out to Asmara to urge it to withdraw from Tigray, support the Pretoria and Nairobi agreements, and pursue any of its demands through dialogue. It is also high time Ethiopia settled its long-running border disputes with Eritrea, which helped spark the catastrophic 1998-2000 war between the two countries and remain central to Asmara’s narrative of grievance. Addis Ababa should reiterate its intention to implement in full the 2002 UN border commission ruling, which identified some key disputed areas as Eritrean. Ideally, even if they appear to be in no position to object at the moment, Tigray’s leaders would play their part in this decision, as their exclusion was a key defect of Abiy and Isaias’ 2018 rapprochement that promised a definitive resolution of the border dispute.

Cementing peace will require courageous political leadership from both Abiy and his Tigrayan counterparts. In particular, Abiy should continue speaking about the benefits of peace and act generously toward his erstwhile foes. Mekelle, meanwhile, should recognise the futility of a renewed armed insurgency, and the extreme peril it holds, both for the TPLF’s own future and for Tigray’s population. That message should also be heeded by Tigrayans who criticise the Pretoria agreement, including both those living in Tigray itself and those in the diaspora, with the latter acknowledging that Tigray’s leaders made painful political concessions in part due to their sober assessment of the fighting’s human toll and their battlefield prospects. In sum, all parties should remain patient. They should focus on making incremental progress that will gradually build the trust needed to find an eventual settlement.

The halt in hostilities and agreement to end the war could help Ethiopia and Ethiopians turn a page on this tragic chapter, provided they are a first step on a long road to recovery. The brutal two-year conflict inflicted vast human suffering. Tigray’s immiseration bears witness to its leadership’s miscalculations, even as the conflict has set a frightening precedent with the tactics employed by Addis Ababa and Asmara against their adversaries. Mekelle should now stick to its responsible decision to stop fighting, while Abiy, choosing magnanimity over vindictiveness, should be pragmatic about the region’s disarmament and gradually seek a sustainable settlement with Tigray that can begin to heal the conflict’s deep wounds. All parties should put their efforts into giving peace the chance it deserves.

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

Certainly the agreement calls for the withdrawal of, as you pointed out, not only Eritrean forces but Amhara special forces and Afar militia that are currently in Tigray.  I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of what will happen if these commitments aren’t abided by, because what we’re hearing from the Government of Ethiopia and certainly from the other side in terms of the Tigrayan authorities is that they are committed to ensuring that this happens. The United States always has at its disposal as a policy tool the prospect of sanctions, and we will not hesitate to deploy them if that should become necessary in terms of holding actors accountable for human rights violations or for the purposes of trying to ensure that this agreement is respected and abided.

Source: State Department

Briefing with Senior State Department Official on the Situation in Ethiopia

SPECIAL BRIEFING

OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON

VIA TELECONFERENCE

NOVEMBER 15, 2022

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to today’s call on the situation in Ethiopia.  Today’s call is on background to a senior State Department official and embargoed until its conclusion.  We are joined – for your information and not for reporting, we are joined today by [Senior State Department Official] who will be referred to hereafter as a senior State Department official in our transcript.  We will have some time for questions at the end, but I’d like to start off by turning it over to our senior State Department official to begin with some opening remarks. [Senior State Department Official], please go ahead.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much, and thank you, everybody, for taking the time.  I think it’s just afternoon in D.C.  I’m actually calling in from – well, if I reveal where I’m calling in from it’ll be very obvious who the senior State Department official is, but you’ll get the sense for it in a moment.

So I wanted to just frame a little bit of what’s happened over the last six weeks.  I’m not going to go at great length, but you may recall that during the UN General Assembly President Biden said in his UN General Assembly speech that the United States supports an AU-led process to try to bring peace and stability to northern Ethiopia.  And that is, in fact, what we have been doing as the United States, supporting the African Union in a very intense diplomatic effort that has involved not only the Secretary but the Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman, Under Secretary Toria Nuland, our Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Molly Phee, our USUN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, people over at the White House and across the interagency, and of course, the SEHOA team and our embassies – multiple embassies in Addis, Nairobi, and also in Pretoria.

I will say that as we launched on this trip and been up in talks beginning in Pretoria on October 25th, it was very clear from the get-go that the goal as put forward by all parties during these talks in Pretoria was, as the AU has said, to silence the guns, to stop the fighting.  This was reflected by the panel members, who did an outstanding job in leading the facilitation mediation effort.  You know that that was the panel chair who was and is and remains former President Obasanjo, who represents – is a high representative for the Horn of Africa, joined by former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, and then as well as Deputy President Phumzile of South Africa.  And we on the part of the United States commend not only the work of the panel, the African Union, but also extremely impressed with the commitments as hosts and in support of this process of both South Africa and the Kenyan Governments.

The clear goal, as I stated, was to stop the fighting.  And as you may recall, within about 48 to 72 hours after November 2nd’s Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed fighting in fact had stopped between the Ethiopian National Defense Force and the Tigrayan Defense Forces.  This is a major, important achievement, showing real willingness and indication on the part of the parties to stop the fighting and to move forward on what was most necessary in terms of supporting not only the Tigrayan people but those Ethiopians affected in the adjoining regions of Amhara and Afar.

As was provided for in the Pretoria agreement, within a couple days there was a hotline established between the top-level military commanders of the ENDF and the TDF.  And then what you saw happened within five days is the launch of the next phase, the follow-on implementation phase of the cessation of hostilities agreement that began in Nairobi on November 7th between the top commanders of both the ENDF, Field Marshal Jula, and then of the TDF, or as it has become known now as the Tigrayan armed combatants, General Tadesse. They were joined by other representatives of their respective militaries as well as the continued political leadership of the TPLF Getachew Reda and then of course the lead Ethiopian Government representative, the national security advisor Redwan Hussein.

Now after another intense week or so you saw then the realization of a follow-on agreement for Nairobi that was signed on the 12th.  And what you saw there is yet another important step towards establishing a longing – a lasting peace.  The Nairobi agreement is significant because it expanded upon and clarified some of the key issues that were addressed and agreed upon and understood in Pretoria, including very specifically, as you may have seen from the text that was released, the commitment to a withdrawal of foreign forces as well as those non-ENDF forces from the region and that that would be done concurrently with the expected Tigrayan disarmament.  This is significant because it was the first acknowledgement in essence that there are Eritrean forces operating inside of Ethiopia, and there is now a clear understanding that they are to withdraw.

Furthermore, the agreement in Nairobi built upon the urgency of Pretoria to expedite humanitarian access and the restoration of services in Tigray and in the adjoining regions.  And what we have seen in the days following is the beginnings of what is extremely urgent in terms of saving lives and addressing the suffering of the Ethiopian people in this region, which is the beginnings of delivery of humanitarian assistance that in essence had stopped when the conflict restarted on August 24th.  I’ll have a few more details on the humanitarian assistance delivery.  There was also a clear commitment to the protection of civilians, to ensuring that there’s human rights accountability, and that there’s continued human rights monitoring to ensure that no further human rights abuses are committed.

As the implementation goes forward, much of that responsibility falls upon the African Union’s monitoring verification mechanism, which is being finalized, and which is meant to support the implementation process.  And our intent as the United States is to continue to support as asked this – the entire facilitation process, the implementation process.  In fact, now there’s a – as you will have seen from Nairobi agreement, also there’s an establishment of a joint commission on disarmament between the Ethiopian and Tigrayan armed forces to work out some of the details.  It’s important that implementation be followed through.

We – or we know that the special envoy for the Horn of Africa was back in Mekelle to return the Tigrayan delegation and had an opportunity to meet with TPLF President Dr. Debretsion as well as then follow on in his trip to Addis Ababa over yesterday and today and had an opportunity to meet with Ethiopian Government leadership, including Prime Minister Abiy and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.  And from all, they have reiterated their steadfast commitment to the implementation of this agreement and their strong desire for this to realize in fact the goals intended from the signing of – in Pretoria of a – it is a permanent, very important – permanent cessation of hostilities that then brings a lasting peace.

It is important to note as well that the special envoy for the Horn was able to also meet today with the African Union Chairperson Faki to continue to discuss and review how the United States might be able to continue to support the implementation of this important set of agreements that were reached in Pretoria and Nairobi as well as have – the SEHOA was able to meet with other international partners who are here present in Addis to see how we might continue to cooperate in common cause in support of advancing stability and peace in northern Ethiopia.

Let me just say a couple words on humanitarian access before I turn it over to your questions.  Clearly, this is urgent, given that humanitarian assistance had been discontinued, as I mentioned, since August 24th.  And we have the first reports today of ICRC trucks arriving safely in Mekelle with stocks of medical cargo and additionally other convoys from the World Food Program that are going from Bandar to Mai Tsebri with nearly 300 metric tons of mixed aid commodities.

It is absolutely vital that humanitarian assistance be robustly provided unhindered, as has been agreed to by the parties.  And things are starting to move, but again, it’s the beginning.  But this must be sustained and it must deliver for the people of Tigray and those in the affected regions of Afar and Amhara.

We are very realistic in understanding that these are the early stages, that implementation will require continued effort on the part of not only the African Union, the panel, the governments that are supporting it – specifically South Africa and Kenya – but also the observers, which include the United Nations, IGAD, and the United States.  And we will continue to provide our diplomatic support, provide logistic support, and if there are other requests for assistance to make sure that this process endures, we are prepared and very ready to do so.

With that, I’ve gone a little bit long, but let me just turn it back over to you and take your questions.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much, sir.  Don, would you mind repeating the instructions for joining the question queue?

OPERATOR:  Absolutely.  If you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad.  If you’re using a speakerphone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers.  Once again, please press 1 then 0.

MODERATOR:  Excellent.  Could we please go to the line of Daphne from Reuters?

OPERATOR:  One moment.  And your line is open.

QUESTION:  Hi.  Thank you so much for doing this.  I wanted to ask you about the Eritrean troops.  We understand that Eritrean soldiers as well as Amhara militias are still in Tigray and there is no sign they intend to withdraw, especially the Eritreans.  What happens if Eritreans don’t withdraw?  Are more sanctions from the U.S. on the table?  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thank you very much, Daphne.  Appreciate the question.  Certainly the agreement calls for the withdrawal of, as you pointed out, not only Eritrean forces but Amhara special forces and Afar militia that are currently in Tigray.  I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in terms of what will happen if these commitments aren’t abided by, because what we’re hearing from the Government of Ethiopia and certainly from the other side in terms of the Tigrayan authorities is that they are committed to ensuring that this happens.

The United States always has at its disposal as a policy tool the prospect of sanctions, and we will not hesitate to deploy them if that should become necessary in terms of holding actors accountable for human rights violations or for the purposes of trying to ensure that this agreement is respected and abided.

There are clearly – there is a tremendous focus on both sides understanding that because of the language which ties the withdrawal of foreign forces and other forces that are non-ENDF to the disarmament, that it’s in both parties’ interests that this be realized expeditiously.  They have formed the joint committee to review procedures and implementation.  This is a work in progress.  We are encouraged again by the comments made publicly today by Prime Minister Abiy to the national parliament, assembly, reiterating his commitment for peace.

And therefore the expectation is that while this may take some time that both parties understand that there was in the end no military option for success and that the only success could come through dialogue, and that’s why ultimately this Pretoria process that then has continued on through Nairobi and which will continue on with additional rounds that will be focused on resolving and addressing political issues, that it just – it needs to be through dialogue.

But we’re under no illusions.  This is the early days.  It’s promising in terms of the follow-on action that we’re starting to see happening, but you can rest assured that we won’t rest for a minute and we’ll remain completely focused as the United States in supporting the efforts of both sides to go forward through the African Union process and their verification and monitoring mechanism to continue to make incremental progress until all aspects of both agreements that were signed are realized.

Thank you, Daphne.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  Could we please go to the line of Zeba Warsi from PBS News?

OPERATOR:  One moment.

QUESTION:  Thank you so much for doing this.  My question is about humanitarian aid access.  It is good news indeed that today two trucks carrying medical supplies have reached Mekelle City.  But could you please tell us what are the nitty-gritties of – in the agreement with respect to humanitarian aid access?  Is it conditional on the truth or is it permanent in its duration?  And is there anything specifically about guaranteeing safety to aid workers?  Because we’ve seen the conflict has been particularly deadly even for humanitarian aid workers.  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  No, thank you very much, Zeba.  The commitment is really clear.  It was clear in Pretoria and it was further elucidated and expanded upon in Nairobi.  Humanitarian assistance is to flow unhindered, and that is the commitment.  There should be no restrictions.  There’s always going to be some consideration, and this is something that humanitarians are keenly aware of, and you hinted at that for some security reasons potentially at times some deliveries won’t be possible.  But let’s remember that for five months between March and until August 24th there was a humanitarian truce that was respected by both sides which allowed the flow of humanitarian assistance, and now we actually have an agreement in writing that commits both parties to enable this.

There are, I’m sure, going to be some guidelines as usually happens in a time of conflict, but as this is being worked out, the permits need to be provided and are being provided from what we understand as of today.  And they need to progress.  We have to get urgent assistance – not only food but also medicine and other lifesaving supplies – to the people most in need to alleviate the suffering.

And likewise there is a commitment on the restoration of services, which has been an issue that has not been addressed.  That includes not only telecommunications and banking but also electricity.  And again, the Nairobi agreement makes clear that that is going to be happening within the next couple of weeks.  Some of that needs to occur in conjunction with, as the Tigrayans have accepted, the federal takeover of federal installations.  So we just need to stay very focused on making sure that this is happening.

In terms of protections for humanitarian workers, clearly there is a focus in the Nairobi agreement on protection of civilians, and clearly that also reflects a concern that humanitarian aid workers be able to do their jobs without fear.  This is something that, again, both parties have committed to.  With the stopping in the fighting, it does allow for a conducive environment, and so there’s every expectation that humanitarian aid workers will be able to do their heroic jobs to deliver food, medicine, and other necessary supplies to those in greatest need.

But again, rest assured – on the part of the United States and our partners in the international community, as well as, I think for sure, the African Union’s verification and monitoring mechanism – that every effort is going to be made that if there are issues that they’re resolved quickly and do not in any way impede humanitarian assistance from getting to those who most need it.  Thank you much, Zeba.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  Can we please go to the line of Pearl Matibe from Power FM 98.7?

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  I really appreciate you doing this, particularly on this topic.  My question – I’d like to probe and just press you a little bit on two aspects, on observation and capacitating African Union players.  So is there – in your role as the United States in observing, could you speak a little bit more specifically about what that means and what that looks like in operationalizing that?

And then to what extent, if any, is Africa Command a part of this in terms of helping to capacitate maintaining the peace or stopping the hostilities?  Are they playing a role at all, and if so, to what extent?  Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Thank you very much, Pearl, for those good questions.  The United States was invited by Chairperson Faki to be an active – participate and to be part of the observer partners during the process, of course, in Pretoria and Nairobi and continue on.  And Special Envoy for the Horn Mike Hammer met today with Chairperson Faki and we remain very much committed to continue to support that.

That can come in a series of ways.  It’s engaging in and supporting the process as the panel, whether it’s President Obasanjo or President Kenyatta or Dr. Phumzile, might need in terms of assistance where the United States might have influence or be able to provide reassurance to either party on any particular issue.  It has involved logistical support.  I’m sure you’re aware that we have been flying the Tigrayan delegation on military aircraft out and into Mekelle in support of this mission, at the request of the African Union, and of course with the full consent of the Ethiopian Government.  So there’s some logistical support that comes along with our observation partnership, but also we remain open to other requests that may come.

You asked about the Africa Command.  It has only been involved, again, in providing the logistical military support, and there’s no expectation, there’s been no request for anything further than that.  This is an AU process.  The African Union has established, in agreement with both parties, this monitoring and verification mechanism that will bring 10 experts under the leadership of the panel to work out the mechanism.  I know for a fact that there were Kenyan generals as well as South African generals in Nairobi working through some of these issues with the African Union Commission.  There’s intent to also have Nigerian generals participate.  And I would refer you to the African Union on the specifics of how this verification mechanism will carry out in terms of its monitoring.

If there are requests for support from the United States or any other of the partners, whether it’s the UN or IGAD, of course we’ll be looking to see how we can best accommodate those requests.  It is in everyone’s interest to make sure that the monitoring mechanism is robust and effective, to give confidence to the parties that, if there are lags or commitments that are not being met, that they can be addressed in a way that preserves the intent of the agreement.  It is very important to recognize that by calling it a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, as was signed in Pretoria, that this is meant to be everlasting and no return to fighting.

So issues need to be worked through.  No implementation I can imagine will be perfect.  There will be, I’m sure, some issues that come up that need to be resolved.  But through the African Union and with the support of the partners and perhaps others who may be added to the process to help bring this about, I think that there’s a good chance to be successful.

One of the issues we haven’t really discussed is continuing on – not only will there be the need for political dialogue in future rounds, but also for the implementation of a robust demobilization, disarmament, and reintegration.  And that’s, as we know, in most conflicts, a very intense process that requires financial support, it’s critical to the success of this agreement, and there will be further discussions and studying of how that is carried out.  I understand the Government of Ethiopia has already assembled or is assembling a committee to go through how it might go forward with dealing with some of the combatants and how they can be best reintegrated.

And then finally, there’s a matter of reconstruction.  Horrible, horrible damage and destruction has happened over the last two years, and there is an urgent need, again, to rebuild and reconstruct not only Tigray but in some areas of the adjoining regions of Afar and Amhara.  And that’s going to require considerable financial support and it will be a subject for future rounds.  But that is something that is envisioned as part of this process, and again, the United States along with the other observers are prepared to do our part, but it may require, again, broader international support.

What I have experienced from meeting with colleagues and – from other countries and other organizations is this tremendous goodwill to try to support this agreement to ensure that this conflict has ended for good, that all the loss of life is – has been tremendously tragic, but that now the focus needs to be on providing for the people of Ethiopia.  And more broadly than not just northern Ethiopia, I’m sure the focus rightfully will return to many urgent needs.  You know the United States is very involved and the biggest supporter of assistance, humanitarian assistance when it comes to drought relief and also in helping other regions that have difficult issues as well.

So while we’re focused on northern Ethiopia, the United States is involved and engaged throughout Ethiopia in support of the Ethiopian people.  Thank you very much, Pearl.

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  I think we have time for one quick final question.  Could we go to the line of Jennifer Hansler from CNN?

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you so much for doing this.  I just wanted to follow up on what you said about accountability for human rights abuses, if you could give us any more details on that and the role the U.S. is going to play or – and has there been any determination of genocide or crimes against humanity that has been made by the U.S. in terms of what happened in Ethiopia?  Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Great.  Thank you very much, Jennifer.  It was very much a point of focus in the initial talks in Pretoria and continued on in Nairobi and in the discussions that the special envoy to the Horn of Africa has had both with Dr. Debretsion and Prime Minister Abiy and those in the leadership of both Tigray as well as in the Ethiopian Government.  And it has been expressed that there needs to be, absolutely needs to be accountability for gross violations of human rights.  That is a process that is underway in terms of how Ethiopia will come to terms with it.

We of course encourage that there be international monitoring and assistance and investigation in support of those efforts.  It is important that there’s a commitment to transitional justice.  It was discussed both in Pretoria and Nairobi.  Now that the conflict has ended, more, obviously, work needs to be done, because since August 24th there has been virtually no access to media or others to be able to really investigate and find out what has transpired.  But there is a commitment on the part of both parties to ensure that there is accountability.

On the question of a determination on atrocities, one has not been made yet.  I’ll leave that to the Secretary of State.  Let’s just be clear, though, that the United States is absolutely committed to ensuring that those who are responsible for gross violations of human rights are held accountable, and that there be justice for all those families who’ve lost loved ones, all those mothers and children who have perished and civilians who had no reason to be put through what has transpired over the last two years.

This will be an ongoing effort of not only the United States, but of, I think, the international community to support and ensure that, again, human rights accountability is delivered and that there’s a way forward that brings, again, a lasting peace.

So thank you, Jennifer, for that question.  And thank you, all of you, for your time and your interest.  I do hope that the media will soon be able to report to the world what has happened.  This has been a tragic episode.  We hope we’re seeing the beginnings of a true end to this conflict.  The United States remains committed to doing its part in support of the African Union, in support of the Government of Ethiopia, and Tigray, and working together with not only the panel members but also the governments of South Africa and Kenya and others in the region who are very focused in wanting to make sure that this succeeds.

But we’re under no illusion; the work remains.  There will be difficult times ahead, but at least in the early days of at least two back-to-back agreements, we are seeing the parties starting to take the steps that they’ve committed to taking.  And we will continue to do our part, the United States diplomatically, to support those efforts.

I don’t know if that’s a wrap, but probably pretty close to it.  I look forward to seeing some of you in Washington at some point when we get back.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you so much, sir, for being so generous with your time.  Thank you so much to our callers for dialing in this afternoon.  That does conclude today’s call, and as a reminder, today’s call was on background, attributable to a senior State Department official.  It has been embargoed until the conclusion of the call, which of course is now.  So thank you again to everyone for joining us, and have a great rest of your day.

 

 

Martin Plaut

Nov 7

Ethiopia's senior negotiator, Redwan Hussien, has given a public briefing on how the cessation of hostilities will roll out.

You can find it here.

Some of the points he made were well know. What follows is not verbatim and needs to be checked against delivery.

·        Only one national defence force

·        Restoring Constitutional order

·        Stop fighting immediately and permanently

·        End hostile propaganda

·        ENDF will enter Mekelle

·        Open channel of communication between senior commanders

·        Disarmament of Tigrayan military

·        TPLF will respect authority of Federal Government to deploy forces and law and order

·        External relations only via the federal authorities

·        Restoring services and aid

At 9:58 he states: "That the ENDF shall safeguard all of Ethiopia's international borders including air space. Because during the conflict we faced on both sides in the air and on the ground that our territorial integrity and borders were violated. We are busy fighting each other……that paved the way for a third party to undermine us. So the only way we save the country was to avoid such opportunity for a third party to undermine us." (unnamed)

The federal government will take charge of Federal Institutions - airports, airstrips, universities. Government must have easy control and access.

Elections in Tigray to an interim administration which must be inclusive. Accepts that there are many parties in Tigray. Accepts that the TPLF can stand, but not be armed.

"When we say disarm TPLF we are not denying Tigray right for a regional police/militia. Tigray can have arms, but the Regional Government, not the party."

Accountability: some atrocities simply cannot be forgotten. At the same time we need forgiveness and healing. Communal discussions are needed.

Next steps:

·        Open channel of communications between commanders.

·        Commanders must meet and discuss how to resolve issues - they will meet in Nairobi on Monday.

·        Timetable for TPLF to hand over heavy weapons to our army. Light weapons will remain and handed over to a transitional administration in Tigray and then a Tigray administration.

·        Re-integration of armed forces.

·        Publicise the agreement.

·        All losses - colossal damage - weakened all of Ethiopia. We will rebuild Afar and Amhara region as well as of course Tigray region.

·        It will require nearly US$20 billion to rebuild health facilities, educational facilities roads etc.

We are aware that there will be many disgruntled groups who will not welcome the agreement. But now we are in continuous communications with the Tigrayans and will address any hiccups in the agreement. We are re-connecting telecoms and electricity. We will do this rapidly.

The government has begun supplying aid and equipment, but it is still risky to allow flights until agreed by the commanders. "There may also be a third party which may not be interested in this peace process."

Source: Borkena

Ethiopian Defense Chief, TPLF rebel military leaders to meet in Nairobi 

November 5, 2022

Ethiopian News _ rebel military Redwan Hussien , middle, briefing diplomatic community in Addis Ababa on November 5, 2022 (Photo : Public Domain)

Ethiopian Defense Force Chief of Staff, Field Marshal Berhanu Jula, and TPLF rebels military leader, Tadesse Worede, will be meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on Monday.

Redwan Hussien, Security Advisor to the Prime Minister and who led the Ethiopian Delegation at the peace talk in South Africa, briefed members of the diplomatic community in Addis Ababa. 

The brief focused on the outcome of the peace talk, the agreement that was reached, and its implementation.

According to Mr. Redwan, the two military leaders already had a phone conversation after the agreement was announced. 

Their next meeting in person is expected to discuss ways of disarming the TPLF combatants as per the agreement reached in South Africa. It is unclear why it is taking place in Kenya when the two leaders could meet in Ethiopia. Also unclear is whether the United States will attend their meeting as an “observer.” 

It was on November 2 that the Ethiopian government and the TPLF rebels reached an agreement, in South Africa, that ended the two years of bloody war. 

The rebel groups renounced their claim of government power as “Government of Tigray” and the Tigray region is to be under transitional administration until the regional election is organized by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia. 

The rebels also agreed to the principle of a single national defense force in the country and recognized the constitutional rights of the National Defense Force to be deployed anywhere in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. 

Mekelle city, seat of the regional government, is to be under the Federal forces with immediate effect. 

Ethnic Tigray activists based in the Diaspora are rejecting the agreement and putting pressure on the TPLF. On the other hand, Ethiopians, including in the Tigray region, are saying that they are relieved that the agreement ended the war. 

The Ethiopian government has embarked on efforts to restore services in the region and planning reconstruction of  infrastructures damaged during the war. 

AFRICAERITREAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICA

Ethiopia Tigray Peace Agreement

DRAFT AGREEMENT FOR LASTING PEACE THROUGH A PERMANENT CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES

BETWEEN

THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF

ETHIOPIA AND THE TIGRAY PEOPLE’S LIBERATION FRONT (TPLF)

PREAMBLE

Agreeing to peacefully resolve the violent conflict that erupted on November 3, 2020, in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia in a manner consistent with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;

Recognizing the destructive consequence of the conflict between the two Parties on human lives and livelihoods;

Affirming that political problems can only be sustainably resolved through political means;

Reiterating the Parties’ commitment to the African Union’s Agenda of Silencing the Guns by 2030, consistent with the spirit of ‘African solutions to African problems;

Resolved to find a lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict; including restoration of constitutional order in the Tigray region;

Convinced of the need to agree upon the terms for the permanent cessation of hostilities and modalities for the peaceful settlement of all political differences and disputes;

Determined to seek a peaceful and lasting solution to the crisis within a framework of the permanent cessation of hostilities where a monitoring and verification mechanism shall be put in place to monitor compliance;

Recognising the efforts to bring a peaceful resolution to the crisis by the African Union, the African Union High-Level Panel led by His Excellency former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, supported by His Excellency former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Her Excellency Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of South Africa, as well as the Republic of South Africa for graciously hosting the Peace Talks, and the observers for their support;

Mindful of the desire of the people of Ethiopia to live in peace and dignity in an inclusive democratic society based on justice, equality, respect for human rights, and the rule of law;

The Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (the Government) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (the TPLF) (together referred to as the Parties) agree to the following terms;

Article 1 – Objectives

The objectives of this Agreement are to:

  1. Reach an immediate and Permanent Cessation of Hostilities with a view to silencing the Guns and creating a conducive environment and laying the foundation for sustainable peace;
  2. Restore the constitutional order disrupted due to the conflict in the Tigray Region;
  3. Reject violence as a method of resolving political differences;
  4. Guarantee security for all;
  5. Ensure a lasting settlement of the conflict;
  6. Provide a framework for addressing matters arising out of the conflict;
  7. Provide a framework to ensure accountability for matters arising out of the conflict;
  8. Foster reconciliation and the rehabilitation of social bonds;
  9. Facilitate economic recovery and reconstruction;
  10. Commit to addressing the underlying political differences;
  11. Provide a framework for monitoring and verification of the implementation of the Agreement.

Article 2 – Principles Underpinning the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities

The Parties shall be guided by the following principles:

  1. Respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE);
    1. Legality and respect for constitutional norms and principles enshrined in the FDRE Constitution;
    1. Respect for fundamental human rights and democratic norms and principles;
    1. Protection of civilians;
  • Respect for the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance;
    • Accountability and justice in accordance with the FDRE Constitution and the AU Transitional Justice Policy Framework;
    • Unhindered humanitarian access to all in need of assistance;
    • The use of humanitarian aid exclusively for humanitarian purposes.
    • Reconciliation and rehabilitation;
    • Relief and Reconstruction;
    • Good faith commitment in the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities and all subsequent stages of the peace process.

Article 3 – The Permanent Cessation of Hostilities

  1. The Parties commit to and declare an immediate and Permanent Cessation of Hostilities, and undertake to disengage forces or armed groups under their control;
  2. This Permanent Cessation of all forms of hostilities shall include, among others; the cessation of overt and covert acts of violence; laying of mines; sabotage; airstrikes; direct or indirect acts of violence; and subversion or use of proxies to destabilize the other party or collusion with any external force hostile to either party;
  3. The Permanent Cessation of hostilities shall include the cessation of all forms of hostile propaganda, rhetoric, and hate speech;
  4. The Permanent Cessation of Hostilities shall pave the way for the restoration of the constitutional order in the Tigray Region and political dialogue between the Parties;
  5. The Parties agree to restore the presence of federal authority in Mekelle in order to create a conducive environment for the resumption of public services in the region as well as to ensure the safety of the inhabitants of the city. To this effect, the Parties agree that the ENDF and other relevant Federal Institutions shall have an expeditious, smooth, peaceful, and coordinated entry into Mekelle, which shall be facilitated through the open communication channel to be established between the senior commanders of the Parties as per Article 6 (c) of this Agreement.

Article 4 – Protection of Civilians

  1. The Parties shall protect the human rights of the civilian population and commit to upholding applicable international humanitarian law instruments to which Ethiopia is a party;
  2. The Parties shall, in particular, condemn any act of sexual and gender-based violence, any act of violence against children, girls, women and the elderly, including recruitment and conscription of child soldiers, and support family reunification.

Article 5 – Humanitarian Access

  1. The Government of FDRE shall expedite the provision of humanitarian aid in collaboration with humanitarian agencies taking into account the specific needs of vulnerable groups including women, children and the elderly; The Parties shall cooperate to this effect;
  2. The Parties undertake to cooperate among themselves and with the relevant humanitarian agencies to assist in reuniting families;
  3. The Government of FDRE undertakes to facilitate the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees, whenever the security situation permits;
  4. The Parties shall ensure that humanitarian aid is used only for humanitarian purposes.

Article 6 – Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR)

The Parties:

  1. Agree and recognize that the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has only one defence force;
    1. Shall design and implement a comprehensive DDR program for TPLF Combatants consistent with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;
    1. Agree that within 24 hours of the signing of this Agreement, an open channel of communication between senior commanders of both sides will be established;
  • Agree to organize a meeting of senior commanders within 5 days from the signing of this Agreement to discuss and work out detailed modalities for disarmament for the TPLF combatants, taking into account the security situation on the ground;
    • Agree to undertake the disarmament of the heavy armaments of the TPLF combatants as a matter of priority based on a detailed schedule to be agreed upon between the senior commanders of the Parties. The disarmament activities in the schedule should be completed within ten days from the conclusion of the meeting of the senior commanders. The ten-day period could be extended based on the recommendation of the senior commanders, to be endorsed by the Parties.
    • Agree to finalize the overall disarmament of the TPLF combatants, including light weapons within 30 days from the signing of this Agreement;
    • Agree that the demobilization and reintegration plan will consider the Tigray Region’s law-and-order needs.

Article 7 – Confidence-building measures

  1. The TPLF shall:
  1. Respect the constitutional authority of the Federal Government, all constitutional bodies and organs of the Federal Government, including but not limited to the authority of the Federal Government to control all federal facilities, institutions, and the international boundaries of the country;
    1. Refrain from aiding and abetting, supporting, or collaborating with any armed or subversive group in any part of the country;
    1. Respect the constitutional mandate of the Federal Government to deploy the Ethiopian National Defence Force as well as federal security and law enforcement agencies to discharge their responsibilities under the Constitution, relevant laws, and regulations;
    1. Refrain from conscription, training, deployment, mobilization, or preparation for conflict and hostilities;
  • Halt any conduct that undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia, including unconstitutional correspondence and relations with foreign powers;
    • Cease all attempts of bringing about an unconstitutional change of government.
  • The Government of the FDRE shall:
  1. Halt military operations targeting the TPLF combatants;
    1. Expedite and coordinate the restoration of essential services in the Tigray region within agreed timeframes;
    1. Facilitate the lifting of the terrorist designation of the TPLF by the House of

Peoples’ Representatives;

  • Mobilize and expedite humanitarian assistance for all those in need in the Tigray Region and other affected areas, and ensure unhindered humanitarian access.

Article 8 – International Boundaries and Federal Facilities

  1. The ENDF shall be deployed along the international boundaries of Ethiopia;
  2. The ENDF shall safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security of the country from foreign incursion and ensure that there will be no provocation or incursion from either side of the border;
  3. The ENDF, the Federal Police, and other federal security organs shall take full and effective control of national airspace, aviation safety and security, and all federal facilities, installations, and major infrastructure such as airports and highways within the Tigray Region.

Article 9 – Restoration of Federal Authority in the Tigray Region and representation in federal institutions

  1. The Parties agree on the restoration of Federal Authority in the Tigray Region, including control of federal institutions and agencies;
  2. The Federal Government shall ensure and facilitate the representation of the Tigray region in the federal institutions, including the House of Federation, and House of

Peoples’ Representatives, in accordance with the FDRE Constitution and applicable laws.

Article 10 – Transitional Measures

  1. Within a week of the implementation of Article 7 (2) (c) and until elections for the Regional Council and the House of Peoples’ Representatives are held under the supervision of the Ethiopian National Election Board, the establishment of an inclusive Interim Regional Administration will be settled through political dialogue between the Parties;
  2. A week after the implementation of Article 7 (2) (c) the Parties shall start a political dialogue to find lasting solutions to the underlying political differences between them;
  3. The Government of Ethiopia shall implement a comprehensive national transitional justice policy aimed at accountability, ascertaining the truth, redress for victims, reconciliation, and healing, consistent with the Constitution of FDRE and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework. The transitional justice policy shall be developed with inputs from all stakeholders, and civil society groups through public consultations and formal national policy-making processes.
  4. The Parties commit to resolving issues of contested areas in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Article 11 – Monitoring, Verification, and Compliance

  1. The Parties agree to institute a monitoring, verification, and compliance mechanism for the effective implementation of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities. For this purpose, the Parties agree to establish a Joint Committee comprising a representative from each party, a representative from IGAD and chaired by the African Union through the High-Level Panel. The Joint Committee shall be assisted by a team of African Experts;
  2. The AU, through the High-Level Panel, shall appoint a team of African experts to monitor the implementation of the permanent cessation of hostilities agreed upon under Article 3 of this Agreement. The Parties shall appoint one expert each to work with the team of African Experts;
  • The AU, through the High-Level Panel shall consult with the Parties regarding the terms of reference and the profile of the Experts;
  • The specific functions of the experts, including those with a military background, shall be agreed upon between the Parties and the AU, through the High-Level Panel;
  • The number of experts shall not exceed ten (10). If additional experts are needed, this shall be agreed upon with the Parties;
  • The duration of the mandate of the experts shall be six months from the date the experts are deployed. This period could be extended upon agreement with the Parties;
  • The AU, through the High-Level Panel may, in agreement with the Parties, augment the work of the experts with satellite imagery;
  • Whenever the team of experts finds instances of violation of the cessation of hostilities, they will inform the concerned party to take immediate measures to rectify the violation;
  • They will also inform the other party and Joint Committee of any communication under the preceding sub-article. If the violation is not rectified within 24 hours, the AU, through the High-Level Panel will convene the Joint Committee to resolve the problem.

Article 12 – Good Faith Implementation

  1. The Parties undertake to implement this Agreement in good faith and to refrain from any action that undermines and/or is inconsistent with the spirit and letter of this Cessation of Hostilities;
  2. The Parties shall promote the objectives of the Cessation of Hostilities.

Article 13 – Joint Statement and communications

  1. The Parties shall issue a joint statement on the importance of this Agreement and their joint commitment to work towards peace and stability in the country;
  2. The Parties commit not to make any unilateral statement, in any form, that could undermine this Agreement;
  3. All public statements, in any form, by the Parties shall support the Agreement and prepare the ground for implementation.

Article 14 – Effective Date

This Agreement shall come into effect at 00:00 hours East Africa Time (EAT) on 3rd November 2022.

Article 15 – Amendments to this Agreement

This Agreement may be amended by mutual consent of the Parties, which shall be in writing and signed by the Parties.

Done at Pretoria, the Republic of South Africa on 2nd November 2022.

For the Government of the FDRE                                  For the Tigray People’s Liberation Front

His Excellency, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson African Union Commission

His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa

His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta, former President of the Republic of Kenya (Panel Member)

Her Excellency Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa (Panel Member)

OCTOBER 28, 2022 ERITREA HUB NEWS
Eritrea poses a real challenge to the UN system and the international community a UN expert said today, warning that the country’s human rights situation was deteriorating drastically.
“Eritrea was elected to serve in the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024. However, its continuous failure to fully cooperate with his mandate and implement the recommendations of human rights bodies calls the credibility and integrity of the entire UN human rights system into question,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, in a report to the General Assembly.

Source: UN Human Rights Commission

No end in sight: International community continues to fail Eritreans says UN Expert
27 October 2022

NEW YORK (27 October 2022) – Eritrea poses a real challenge to the UN system and the international community a UN expert said today, warning that the country’s human rights situation was deteriorating drastically.
“Eritrea was elected to serve in the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2022-2024. However, its continuous failure to fully cooperate with his mandate and implement the recommendations of human rights bodies calls the credibility and integrity of the entire UN human rights system into question,” said Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, in a report to the General Assembly.

“The intensification of the armed conflict in Tigray, the de facto blockade by Eritrean forces, secret places of torture called “villas” and the forced indefinite national conscription, all contribute to violations of human rights in Eritrea,” the Special Rapporteur said.

The expert made note of the fact that Eritrea had used its Human Rights Council membership to oppose international scrutiny over violations in the Tigray Region and voted against the establishment of an international commission of experts to investigate allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations in Ethiopia.

Eritrea has been fighting alongside Ethiopia’s central government troops since the civil war broke out in Tigray in late 2020.

Babiker’s report to the General Assembly also noted that Eritrean journalists, political opponents and disappeared persons had been detained in the country for more than 20 years. “They are the longest detained persons in the world, languishing in jails and incommunicado detentions,” the Special Rapporteur said. December 2022 will mark 10 years since the arrest of Ciham Ali Abdu, an American-Eritrean child who had been held incommunicado since the age of 15. According to the UN expert, there had been a recent and worrying uptick in arbitrary arrests and detentions against clergymen in the country.

“The Government of Eritrea should release children, political prisoners, hundreds of disappeared persons and those imprisoned for their religious beliefs and allow all Eritreans to exercise their right to freedom of religion,” the UN expert said.

The Special Rapporteur said he had received information that people from the Afar region of Eritrea were being denied access to asylum procedures especially at the Asayita refugee camp in Ethiopia.

“Immediate action is imperative to protect refugees and other vulnerable populations. Humanitarian actors face difficulties operating in Tigray due to the complex security situation and lack of access, impacting humanitarian delivery to refugees,” he said.

ENDS

In September 2020, the Human Rights Council appointed Dr. Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker of Sudan as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. Dr. Babiker is an Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Khartoum and founding Director of its Human Rights Centre. He is also a practicing lawyer, has conducted international investigations in the Horn of Africa on human rights and international humanitarian law and has published extensively.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

AFRICAETHIOPIAHORN OF AFRICAUNITED STATES

Source: Senate Foreign Relations Committee

Risch, Merkley, Menendez, Colleagues Urge Cessation of Hostilities in Ethiopia Ahead of Peace Talks in South Africa

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), sent a letter to Ethiopia’s prime minister ahead of planned peace talks led by the African Union set to begin tomorrow. In their bipartisan letter, the senators welcome the government of Ethiopia’s decision to participate in peace talks in South Africa and urge a cessation of hostilities and unfettered humanitarian access ahead of, and for the duration of, the negotiations. 

“The surge of violence in the last few weeks is the latest tragic chapter in a war that has had a devastating human toll,” wrote the senators. “Since the start of the conflict in November 2020, an estimated 2.5 million civilians have been displaced, and approximately 500,000 killed.” 

The senators go on to note how the collapse of the five-month humanitarian truce halted crucial aid from being delivered to 5.2 million people in need – including large numbers of women and children. In August, the United Nations warned that one out of every three Tigrayan children under the age of five in northern Ethiopia is acutely malnourished. Throughout Ethiopia, 20 million people are food insecure. 

“Too many lives have already been lost in this conflict, and in conflict throughout the country. We are hopeful that the AU-led talks will signal an end to the violence that has ravaged northern Ethiopia for two years and pave the way for holding those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities to account. A peaceful resolution to the conflict is imperative and we urge you to facilitate this critical step toward peace by immediately ceasing hostilities,” they concluded. 

Full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Prime Minister Abiy,

We welcome the Government of Ethiopia’s decision to participate in the upcoming peace talks in South Africa, led by the African Union. We strongly urge all parties involved in the fighting to immediately cease hostilities, including the withdrawal of the Eritrean Defense Forces from northern Ethiopia, and allow unfettered humanitarian access to the entire region to ensure a successful outcome to negotiations.

The surge of violence in the last few weeks is the latest tragic chapter in a war that has had a devastating human toll. Since the start of the conflict in November 2020, an estimated 2.5 million civilians have been displaced, and approximately 500,000 killed.

The resumption of hostilities in northern Ethiopia is compounding an already dire humanitarian situation. With the collapse of the five-month humanitarian truce, crucial aid is no longer being delivered to the 5.2 million people in need in Tigray, including many women and children. The United Nations warned in August that one out of every three children under five in northern Ethiopia is acutely malnourished, while 20 million throughout Ethiopia are food insecure. These shocking numbers are certain to rise so long as fighting continues. Just last week, the UN Secretary General said the situation in Ethiopia is spiraling out of control.

Too many lives have already been lost in this conflict, and in conflict throughout the country. We are hopeful that the AU-led talks will signal an end to the violence that has ravaged northern Ethiopia for two years and pave the way for holding those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities to account. A peaceful resolution to the conflict is imperative and we urge you to facilitate this critical step toward peace by immediately ceasing hostilities.

Sincerely,