Ethiopia says it has moved on from the horrors of the war in Tigray, rebuilding its international image as it seeks to reconcile communities.
But such efforts have been dragged by renewed violence in Amhara region seeing the government impose a state of emergency and battle local militia groups that turned on the national army.
Meles Alem, the spokesperson of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told journalists on Thursday Ethiopia has cleaned itself from the mess in Tigray, seeing it return to the international community.
“The agenda about Ethiopia being raised in international and multilateral forums today is different from the agenda being raised a year ago,” Meles said.
“The Pretoria peace agreement has boosted Ethiopia’s diplomacy and improved its relations with countries and international organisations, with Ethiopia’s successful bid to be a member of the BRICS mechanism being a good example.”
On November 2, 2022, the Ethiopian government and the northern rebels the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a cessation of hostilities agreement (Coha) in Pretoria, South Africa, to end a two-year brutal conflict.
The agreement was mediated by a 3-member African Union High-Level Panel, comprising former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Deputy President Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa.
The peace deal included provisions for restoration of law and order, restoration of basic services, as well as unhindered access to humanitarian supplies and more specifically, one national defence force.
The last bit has been controversial and some militias that sided with the Ethiopian National Defence Forces (ENDF). Earlier this year, some of the militia in Amhara region, refusing to surrender arms, revolted against the government forces, raising a new violence. Ethiopia has since August imposed a state of emergence on Amhara, cutting off key services as it battles the militia.
On Thursday, rights lobby, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the UN and the international community to keep pressure on Addis Ababa to also deal with justice for victims in Tigray.
“While the Ethiopian government and international partners tout the tremendous progress made in the past year, civilians in conflict areas are still bearing the brunt of atrocities,” said Laetitia Bader, Deputy Africa director at HRW.
And HRW says the Eritrean troops, who supported the ENDF during the war but didn’t sign on the agreement should meet justice for killings, sexual violence, kidnappings and looting.
Washington said the Coha had helped end horrific violence that had displaced more than 2 million people with a death toll ranging in hundreds of thousands.
“The Agreement silenced the guns and ended a horrific two-year war that killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions to flee their homes. Today, on the first anniversary of the Coha, the United States remembers those who lost their lives and suffered atrocities. We also recommit to supporting peace and justice for all Ethiopians,” said Antony J Blinken, the Secretary of State.
“It is important to acknowledge the challenges that remain. While TPLF forces have disarmed heavy weapons and begun to demobilise, more actions are needed for lasting peace and stability to Tigray. Eritrea must fully withdraw.”
“The Chairperson applauds the notable milestones being recorded in the implementation of the Peace Agreement and its Nairobi Roadmap,” said African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat.
“Chairperson reaffirms the full solidarity and commitment of the AU to intensify support for the implementation of the Peace Agreement as the implementation moves to the crucial phase of DDR (disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration),” he said.
According to the AU, the TPLF already handed over heavy weapons, the government restored basic services to Tigray and an interim administration has already taken over as a team on transitional justice settles in.
“These vital actions powerfully demonstrate the commitment of the Signatory Parties to chart a path for sustainable peace and security in Ethiopia.”
The US says both Ethiopia and Eritrea must refrain from provocation and respect the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of all countries in the region and raised concerns about new violence in Amhara, Oromia “that threaten Ethiopia’s fragile peace”.
The mediators have never met with parties to review the deal even though it included a team of monitors from the African Union, Ethiopian government and parties to the agreement.
The AU, nonetheless, sees the peace deal as one of the local solutions fronted under the African Solutions for African Problems.