THE United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed the declaration of an indefinite humanitarian truce on the part of the Ethiopian Government, and the commitment by forces in the Tigray region to comply with the immediate ceasefire.
The ceasefire is coming amid concerns over the plight of about five million people who need emergency aid in the troubled region.
The 16-month conflict between federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) spilled over into the neighbouring regions, causing terrible suffering for millions of people across Afar, Amhara, Tigray, Benishangul Gumz and Oromia.
“These positive developments must now translate into immediate improvements on the ground,” Guterres said in a statement issued on his behalf by UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.
The Secretary-General also urged all parties fighting in the north, “to build on this encouraging development to take the necessary steps towards a long-term ceasefire”.
Thousands of civilians have been killed while millions are displaced across northern Ethiopia, mostly into neighbouring Sudan.
All parties to the conflict are responsible for multiple grave rights abuses, according to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.
Due to the prolonged fighting, the northern region had not received any aid deliveries by road since December 2021 and with the ceasefire truce now in place, aid would be allowed to reach stricken civilians.
The UN chief also reiterated his call for the restoration of public services in Tigray, “including banking, electricity and telecommunications”.
He also called for all sides to proactively enable and facilitate the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian assistance across all affected areas”.
The Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters on Friday agreed to respect a cease-fire in the northern Tigray region.
The rebels told the AFP news agency they were “committed to implementing a cessation of hostilities effective immediately” and asked Ethiopian federal authorities to deliver emergency aid to the region.
This is the second ceasefire declared since the conflict began. The last time the government declared a unilateral ceasefire in July, the TPLF dismissed it as a “joke” and continued fighting, saying key conditions for peace had not been met.
The conflict started on 4 November, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray. He said he did so in response to an attack on a military base housing government troops in the area.
The escalation came after months of feuding between Ahmed’s government and leaders of Tigray’s dominant political party.
For almost three decades the party was at the centre of power before it was sidelined by Ahmed, who took office in 2018 after anti-government protests.
The Prime Minister pursued reforms, but when Tigray resisted, the political crisis erupted into war.
Implications for Nigeria
Ethiopia is the oldest independent country and second-most populous country in Africa after Nigeria and relations between both countries have been warm and cordial since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1964.
In February 2020, Nigeria and Ethiopia signed a new Memorandum of Understanding that would provide veritable platforms for deepening existing cooperation in different areas such as aviation, investments, trade, energy development and tourism, as well as cultural exchanges between the two countries and provide a strong pillar for African integration.
The Prime Minister also expressed the readiness of Ethiopia to exchange lessons with Nigeria on asset recovery and repatriation of stolen funds, given Nigeria’s success in the area and the fight against corruption.
However, like many ethnically heterogeneous countries in Africa, Ethiopia has struggled for political balance between contending ethnic tendencies, which are perpetually struggling for the control of political power. This forms the major basis for her adoption of a decentralized governance structure with a federal government at the apex and regional governments at the coordinating level.
Recent events in Ethiopia provide lessons on how agitation for a restructuring of the polity as a means of addressing real and perceived hegemonic tendencies by particular ethnic nationalities, such as the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) can degenerate into a crisis situation if not well managed, especially as Nigeria looks ahead to another transitional election in 2023.