Suffering, Famine, And Internet Blackouts Remain In Tigray Despite Ceasefire

Despite the ceasefire agreement signed on November 2nd, reports continue to emerge from the Tigray region of Ethiopia regarding continuing abuse of the population. This while the Ethiopian government says it has no timeline for restoring promised services to the beleaguered region.

The Associated Press said that the movement of aid and information into Tigray remains difficult for journalists looking to cover the region and for people in Tigray trying to access international aid. According to reports from aid workers in the area who spoke with the Associated Press, the military of Eritrea, a neighbouring country that allied with the Ethiopian government against Tigray, have continued looting Tigrayan businesses and even kidnapping Tigrayan people in spite of the ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian minister for innovation and technology Belete Molla told the UN Internet Governance Forum in Addis Ababa that the Ethiopian government has “no timeline” for ending the internet and communications blackout in Tigray. UN-affiliated World Food Program (WFP) released a statement saying aid shipments to the Tigray region are not meeting local needs, and that though roads into the region have opened since the ceasefire, delivery remains “constrained.” “In Northern Ethiopia,” this statement reads, “two years of conflict has left more than 13.6 million people in need of humanitarian food assistance,” and according to the August report made by the same WFP, in Tigray alone, “5.4 million people – 90 percent of the region – [have been found] in need of food assistance.”

The war in Ethiopia began almost exactly two years ago in November of 2020 when tensions between Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) boiled over following the TPLF refusing to join its former allies in the new Prosperity Party coalition. Each side accused the other of constitutional violations and military provocations, but in November open fighting between the two broke out, leading to two years of brutal warfare that saw much of northern Ethiopia devastated and saw both sides accusing each other and by international observers of war crimes and human rights abuses. Lulls in fighting and ceasefires occurred or have been enacted previously in the conflict, but the November 2nd peace treaty is by far the most comprehensive, laying out a plan for a permanent end to hostilities and a mutual disarmament. The treaty has been celebrated both in Ethiopia and internationally, including by the UN Secretary General António Guterres, whose spokesperson called the agreement, “a welcome first step, which we hope can start to bring some solace to the millions of Ethiopian civilians that have really suffered during this conflict.”

But the widespread, unchecked occurrences of war crimes, including mass rape, summary executions, and ethnic cleansing, leave deep scars across Ethiopia and Tigray, and peace cannot be taken for granted. Promises made must be kept if both sides are to accept peace. The continuing humanitarian crisis in Tigray, exacerbated by difficulty accessing the region by international NGOs, chaos still being sown by Eritrean troops, and informational services remaining suspended by the Ethiopian government, will only set enmities deeper and strain the prospect of peace in the war-torn country. The best way to ensure TPLF’s violence remains a thing of the past is for the Ethiopian government to show itself as trustworthy to the people of Tigray, and the first steps towards achieving that trust must be taken by ensuring Tigrayan access to aid, securing Tigray from outside violence, and allowing the people of Tigray to reach out and be connected to the rest of the world.