Addis Abeba – Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), the leader of the Tigray regional state, told the high-level federal delegation who visited the region on Monday that despite approving the contents of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) that was signed in Pretoria and expressing the need for its full implementations, the regional state Council hasn’t yet signed on the CoHA document.
Briefing the high-level delegation that that was led by Speaker of Parliament Tagesse Chafo and included senior government officials, ministers and industry CEOs from Ethiopian Airlines, Ethio Telecom as well as the top leadership of the state banking giant Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Deberetsion said the immediate fruit of the agreement was the immediate cessation of hostilities across all the major front-lines especially between the federal and Tigrayan forces except for a few pockets of places where exchanges of fire took place up to the next day and half. Subsequently, the regional state officials took up the tasks of holding community discussions at different levels to explain the details of the agreement. Although the Pretoria agreement was signed by a few of the representatives sent by the region, “everyone needed to know about it,” he said, adding that the transition from cessation of hostilities to peaceful, political, and constitutional journey was not an easy one. “Several discussions took place to ensure this transition was implemented properly…our people from top to bottom were made to hold discussions about it.”
“Frankly speaking, the document has not been submitted to the Council. But I requested [the Council] that I have to report, because this is the people’s matter, everybody’s matter.”
It was within this framework that the members of the regional Council were briefed about the agreement by the regional executive, he said, adding that at first, regional Council members have gone as far as saying they were not willing to see the agreement until the executive explained that discussions needed to happen on the substance of the agreement. According to Debretsion, the reason given by Council members is that the agreement was signed by the party [the TPLF] and that they were representatives of the people and part of the regional government. “They said ‘don’t come with it’ [because] it was announced that it was the TPLF that signed it,” he said.
“Frankly speaking, the document has not been submitted to the Council. But I requested [the Council] that I have to report, because this is the people’s matter, everybody’s matter, I asked them to give me a chance,” he said, further explaining the challenge that if it was stated that the agreement was signed by the regional government, the regional council would have weighed on it and decided through voting. After a serious discussion on the document, Council members “took the agreement positively and endorsed its content, he said further revealing that “the document has not been signed on” by council members, but the content is approved.”
Under Article 10 – Transitional Measures, the CoHA stated that “within a week of the implementation of Article 7 (2) (c) [after the federal government facilitated the lifting of the terrorist designation of the TPLF by the House of Peoples’ Representatives] 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.”
However, there has not been an establishment of the said “Interim Regional Administration” as yet and the regional Council members Debretsion is reporting to were elected to the council during Tigray’s regional election held in September 2020, two months before the war broke out.
He assured the delegation that Tigray government is determined to fully implement the peace agreement and has accordingly redeployed its combatants to identified positions and gathered all heavy weapons to one center.
He however noted impediments, including the continued atrocities being committed by the Eritrean army and some Amhara militias in parts of Tigray where both continued occupying which remained to be the major problem and that they must leave the region soon. After the deliberations, the Council has also assumed ownership of the peace process and has accordingly approved the list of the negotiating team by revamping the previous list of names and adding news ones. The spirit of the people and that of the Council members is now on how to effectively safeguard the peace process and its implementation according to the constitution and that Council members expect regular update from the executive on follow up details of the implementation, according to him.
Where more challenges abound
The Council is clear that there should be “no half peace”, he said, and that armed forces from Eritrea and the Amhara region need to be put in line according to the agreement. “We don’t need half peace; make the peace full”, not whereby there is “half peace, half death, half massacre…half occupation. This reality exists in Tigray now.” and the people want regional officials to change it.
The Eritrean invading forces and armed members of the Amhara region should withdraw out of Tigray “as soon as possible as we have started removing our militants from the front lines and collecting heavy weapons in one center” Debretsion said, adding that the withdrawal foreign invading forces should not even have been a regional matter in the first place as it concerns the territorial integrity of the country.
The disengagement of Tigrayan forces from four front-lines has taken place, according to Debretsion, but he said that “some were left” as they are in the areas where Eritrean forces are present. and that regional officials hope for full implementation of the peace agreement Despite some encouraging starts with resumption of humanitarian aid and electricity, there are still lots to be done by the federal government in line with the signed peace agreement, he added.
The gradual increasing in the flow of humanitarian aid was encouraging, he said, and since the region was reconnected with the national power grid, the problem was almost fixed except for some technical defaults in some areas that need to be fixed. However, “in connection with medicine, there is a serious problem and that mothers continue dying due to lack of medicine.”
Similarly, the slow progress in opening up banks was exacerbating the suffering of the people. “What the people inquire is to access banks. They have their own money but they are deprived of their rights to access what they have in the banks which we what the siege is,” he emphasized.
“even if it is not easy, we have started the journey to peace; but today’s is special. We give respect to this initiative; it has a huge price. I thank all of you, but I would like to thank Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with high regard.”
But Debretsion questioned the provisions of services such as banking and telecommunications only in areas controlled by the federal government, which is “even being publicly announced,” he said, said that these service must be provided to all areas in Tigray regardless of who is administering these areas as was stated in the agreement. “It should be about saving the people, and telephone, bank and power supply works should be done quickly.” Such arrangements are also against the provisions of the agreement, he said.
Regardless, Debretsion hailed the initiative that led to the visit by the delegation as “special” and an initiative that will “boost the process of the peace agreement” and took the time off to thank the government and all members of the delegation, “even if it is not easy, we have started the journey to peace; but today’s is special. We give respect to this initiative; it has a huge price. I thank all of you, but I would like to thank Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed with high regard.”
Selamwit Kassa, State Minister of the Federal Communication Services, symbolized the visit as one that “demolished the wall” and said it has brought the peace process to a critical junction. The leader of the delegation Tagesse Chafo, on his part promised that the federal government was determined fully implement the peace process including the swift restoration of services such as telecommunication, banking, air transport and electricity in the region. “I want to assure you that the federal government is determined to implement these provisions.”
The Speaker also said that the leadership of the federal government has evaluated the report on the ongoing peace pact implementation in the presence of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and there is readiness for full-fledged service provision to the region.
Mesfin Tasew, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, told local media this morning that the Airlines will resume regular flights to Mekelle, the capital of Tigray region, as of Wednesday v28 December. The CEO first announced that the Airlines was making preparations to resume its regular flights on 23 November, but flights have not resumed since.
Mesfin, who was a part of the delegation, confirmed that the Mekelle Alula Aba Nega Airport is in a good condition for flights.
A subsequent message from Ambassador Redwan Hussein, National Security adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, stated that that the delegation has de-briefed the prime minister after the trip to Mekele, and that the “premier gave instructions to CEOs to further expedite resumption of services. Accordingly, EAL has announced that it will resume flight to Mekele tomorrow. Ethio-telecom is expected to announce as such.”
He added, “in the meantime, handing over of heavy weapons and resumption of constitutional duty of ENDF in Mekelle in particular is expected to be executed until Thursday as per the understanding we reached in Nairobi 2”. AS