Ethiopia edge closer to peace

As reported by WhyAfrica last week, there is renewed optimism that the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia is winding down in intensity.

By Leon Louw, founder and editor of WhyAfrica   

Hopes are high that Ethiopia will somehow turn the corner in 2022. Although the devastating war in the Tigray region remains a humanitarian crisis, there is renewed hope that a peaceful solution to the 14-month conflict might already be on the table.

Several significant events and speeches by prominent protagonists in the devastating war during December 2021 and January 2022 indicates that the crisis might have reached an inflection point.

In December Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) withdrew from the Amhara and Afar regions.

After the announcement of the TPLF withdrawal, the United States said in a statement that the retreat of Tigrayan forces may “open the door to broader diplomacy” with budding expectations for “possible dialogue” after a 13-month-long conflict.

The TPLF retreat was welcomed by humanitarian organisatons that could not access critical areas in Tigray after the United Nations (UN) suspended humanitarian flights between Addis Ababa and the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle in October 2021.

Calls for peace and unity      

Shortly thereafter Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s  tone was one of reconciliation when he called for unity across the nation one day ahead of the celebration of Orthodox Christmas on 7 January 2022. “At this time, we need national reconciliation to end the atrocities that have taken place in our country over the past year,” Abiy’s said in speech.

Then, Abiy’s government released several high-profile political detainees. The decision was lauded by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and hailed as a “significant confidence-building step.”

Guterres said he will remain actively engaged with all stakeholders in assisting Ethiopia in efforts to end the fighting and restore peace and stability. He called upon a ceasefire after these recent reconciliatory efforts.

“I call upon the parties to build on this significant confidence-building step by agreeing a cessation of hostilities and a lasting ceasefire, as well as launching a credible and inclusive national dialogue and reconciliation process,” he said.

Opportunity for political resolution

According to a UN statement released today, Guterres spoke on the phone with the former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo last night to exchange views on the conflict that has affected millions of people across the country and the rest of the region.

During the conversation, Obasanjo briefed the Secretary-General about his latest visit to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and the capital of the regional state of Tigray, Mekelle.

According to the UN spokesperson, Obasanjo expressed optimism that there is a real opportunity for political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict

Despite this optimism, Guterres says that he believes ongoing military operations “remain a challenge to the peace process and sour the confidence building measures that we hope are being taken by all parties in the conflict.”

“The United Nations stands ready to support an all-inclusive and nationally owned dialogue, peace, security, and reconciliation process in Ethiopia”, says Guterres.

Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.        

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