Under the blanket of the hushed Ethiopian night, one of the world’s most pressing conflicts has miraculously come to an unanticipated standstill. Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict, which has blighted the East African nation for the last two years, appears to have attested its ultimate denouement after both sides of the quarrel agreed to halt their ongoing antagonisms.
Ushering in the promising news, the African Union has highlighted the momentousness of the move, calling it “a new dawn.” With both sides having facilitated the “permanent silence of the guns,” African Union special broker Olusegun Obasanjo said in Pretoria that the fighting parties have subordinated to a “systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated” plan of disarmament, with the peace talks – which have taken place since last October – having evidently come to a head. The truce has committed to the timely “restoration of services” and “unhindered access to humanitarian supplies”, painting the picture of brighter days ahead.
A lingering sense of despondency has ravaged the Ethiopian populace in recent times amidst a dramatically heightening humanitarian crisis, whereby thousands of citizens have died, with many more on the verge of starvation. According to the World Health Organization, the northern Tigray region nestled in between Sudan and Eritrea is regrettably home to inhabitants of which 90% are in urgent need of food aid. Further data has shown that roughly a third of the region’s children are currently suffering from severe bouts of malnutrition. Although less intimately felt, other practical issues have devastated the region whilst the conflict has raged on, as Tigray’s communications and transport links were also destroyed, cutting off the region entirely from any political or financial support.
Whilst the ceasefire alludes to an increased sense of positivity within the country, the news will be received with a degree of caution. Only in August was an armistice agreed to abort the bloodshed, though this time, intentions have gone further. Ethiopian government officials along with representatives of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), have themselves committed to the aforementioned disarmament plans and drastic aid supplies, culminating in a UN spokesperson hailing the truce as a “welcome first step.” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has duly stressed his government’s dedication to implementing the agreement, simultaneously claiming that his forces are within touching distance of an overdue victory in the conflict over the Tigrayan rebels. In fact, Abiy’s government have successfully wrestled political power away from the TPLF, with the latter having dominated Ethiopia’s ruling political alliance in the decades before Abiy’s subsequent rise in 2018.
Both sides have been accused of atrocities such as ethnic cleansing and sexual violence as part of this war, whilst some of the worst accusations have been apportioned to Eritrean troops who have fought alongside government forces in the region. The conflict began in Ethiopia almost two years ago to the day, on the 4th November 2020, when forces loyal to the TPLF seized military barracks in Tigray, inducing the Ethiopian army to be reluctantly pushed out of the region. The ensuing conflict has thereafter captured the lives of millions, uprooted countless more, and left hundreds of thousands staring a remorseless famine down the barrel.
It is hoped that this time the conflict is truly made a thing of the past, rather than merely kicking the can down the road once again. An egregious set of circumstances, the time has finally come for Ethiopia to be put back on the straight and narrow, with very few social groups inhabiting our planet having suffered more than what those in Tigray have gone through. A welcome first step nonetheless, the ceasefire must represent the beginning of the end. It is imperative now that the government, as well as the rebel forces, entirely respect the agreements they helped create. Peaceful accords are now firmly within sight, and never before has the light at the end of the tunnel shone so brightly.
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