Almost two years of war in northern Ethiopia. Nowa chance for peace (armed, for the moment) is in the balance.
On August 24, the conflict between the federal army, forces from the Amhara region, which borders Tigray, and Eritrean troops, on the one hand, and the Tigray forces, on the other, had broken a truce of about nine months that had largely halted some of the deadliest fighting, giving a chance to a difficult peace process and efforts to bring food to millions of besieged Tigers.
It was not clear why the fighting resumed with a Tigray offensive to the south in Amhara, and a joint Ethiopian-Eritrean raid into Tigray from the north. The Government of Tigray’s Stance on a Peaceful Resolution of the Current Conflict
Now, one of Africa’s leading experts, Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, Research Professor at the Fletcher School of Global Affairs, Tufts University and Professorial Fellow at the London School of Economics, informs, that «ten days of diplomacy“,”they produced a formula for the cessation of hostilities and the start of peace negotiations to end the war ». The government of Tigrayindeed, has
“. But the counterpartor the Ethiopian premier Abiy Ahmed, for now he is silent, expects to see“if he will respond in kind or if he wants to give the war yet another chanceSays de Waal.
11 Sept 2022 pic.twitter.com/hkVdTaNgMK
The Government of Tigray’s Stance on a Peaceful Resolution of the Current Conflict
The situation is very complicated. The war goes beyond the will of the two protagonists -the government of Tigray and the federal government headed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed-, other parties have a sayplaying a role that is anything but secondary, which could lead to a regional war.
«The war in Tigray broke out in November 2020. I significant first steps towards a formal peace process began a year ago, with the appointment of the former Nigerian Presidentthe general Olusegun Obasanjo, High Representative of the African Union, followed by an informal initiative led by the United States and Kenya. The Obasanjo trial has languished while the informal US-Kenyan trial has made great strides“.
In January, Washington had managed to persuade the Tigray to withdraw its army advancing in the region. The United States “they thought they got mutual concessions from Abiyincluding the end of the blockade of Tigray and the order to Eritrea (Abiy’s partner in the war) to remove its troops from Tigray ». “One was agreed in March ‘humanitarian truce‘ And the two sides held secret meetings and wrote down their commitments.Abiy did not keep her commitments, and yet, the western powers, including the United States, they didn’t call him back“.
«The biggest challenge to keep the talks on track was neutralize the spoiler on the head, the President of Eritrea Isaias AfewerkiSays Alex de Waal. «Former US charge d’affaires in Eritrea, Steve Walker, recently described Eritrea under Isaias as a ‘totalitarian’ state with which it is useless to engage in constructive diplomacy. His article questions Washington’s approach of trying to separate Abiy from Isaias using persuasion and incentives. Eritrea meanwhile has emerged as a staunch ally of Russiawhich he invited to establish a naval base on the Red Sea coast ».
The peace process stalled over the summer“and there have been no visible international efforts to discourage Eritrea. On the contrary, when he informed the African Union on 4 August, Obasanjo proposed to invite Eritrea to be a formal part of the processreporting that efforts to disengage Eritrea had failed“.
Thus we arrive at the 24th of Augustwith the massive mobilization of all three armies – the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), the Eritrean Defense Force (EDF) and the Tigray Defense Force (TDF) – and thereturn to hostilities.
Until the last few hours, the fighting saw theEritrea “fully engaged in the war. Not only are EDF tanks, artillery and infantry in active combat, but 12 divisions of the ENDF“, that is, the Ethiopian army“are located in Eritrea. According to Ethiopian sources, they are completely under Eritrean command. Isaiasnot only dictates the order of the battle, but he can veto any peace move made by AbiyHence the reason why Abiy cannot and does not want to give a positive or negative answer to the Tigray peace proposal. He needs time.
In three weeks of fighting on every front surrounding Tigray, the TDF had the upper hand, reports Alex de Waal. The TDF defeated the ENDF on both the southern and southwestern fronts, and is holding its position against joint ENDF-EDF attacks on the northern border with Eritrea.
The situation is serious. “The covert destabilization is on the verge of exploding into a regional warSays de Waal. Regional war which would involve Ethiopia, TDF, Eritrea, Sudanand it is not to be excluded that in such a situation other countries of the area, Egypt in primis, are added.
De Waal details the picture behind the scenes. Sudan facilitated the supplies of TDF and allowed the TDF to recruit refugees and military personnel.
The reason for this position of Sudan lies in a border dispute with Ethiopia over the al-Fashaga area. It is theEritreahowever, that “poses a greater threat“.
“The Sudanese military establishment is constituted froman uncomfortable coalition ofregular army(loyal to the head of state, General Abd al-Fattah al-Burhan), le Rapid Support Paramilitary Forces(RSF) (under general Mohamed ‘Hemedti’ Hamdan Dagolo) ed former rebel groups who joined the government under a peace agreement concluded last year. There RSF by Hemedti has a partnership with the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Eritrea is home to RSF units and some former rebels who could spark riots on Isaias’ orders“.
“If Sudan goes to warby decision or by calculation error, Egypt will also be involved. Cairo and Khartoum signed a military cooperation agreement last year. Egypt is concerned about Eritrean activities in the Red Sea and about Ethiopia’s ability to close the locks on the Blue Nile ». And yet Egypt also has “the potential to put its weight in the balance for peacefor example by persuading Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates to reconsider his ties with Abiy and Isaias ”.
The first public statements by the United States, after the outbreak of the fighting on 24 August, “criticized the federal government and the Tigers alike, inviting them to return to the talks without preconditions”.
“The September 9 is
Two days earlier, Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael had written one
calling for an end to hostilities with four preconditions: restoration of essential services, unrestricted humanitarian access, withdrawal of Eritrean troops under international supervision, and restoration of Tigray to its pre-war borders. In this way he has drawn up a roadmap for the peace talks.
Tigray writes to #UNSC spells out 4 points that must form basis for a negotiated ceasefire— Rashid Abdi (@RAbdiAnalyst) September 9, 2022
*End to siege
*Unfettered humanitarian access
*Withdrawal of Eritrean troops
*Return of Western Tigray to pre-war status pic.twitter.com/rWeTbwLNB7
After the meeting on 9 September“the Tigrinians clarified their offer in one
on the occasion of the Ethiopian New Year (September 11th): “one immediate and agreed cessation of hostilities” it’s a AU-led credible peace process”», Without going backwards. “Blinken immediately issued a statement in support of the Tigray statement, as did the European Union, the UN And the UA“.
The Government of Tigray’s Stance on a Peaceful Resolution of the Current Conflict— Tigray External Affairs Office (@TigrayEAO) September 11, 2022
11 Sept 2022 pic.twitter.com/hkVdTaNgMK
To keep quietas mentioned, is Abiy Ahmed. “The federal government is silent on the cessation of hostilities. He publicly claims to have the military upper hand and the ‘Twitter lions’ shout that the Tigrinya offer shows that the TDF is defeated ». .
Now diplomatic pressure has focused on Abiy. He has not kept faith with previous agreements “by convincing sympathetic diplomats that he could only sell the agreement to his constituents if the Tigrayans were forced to make further concessions. He argued that only he could prevent Ethiopia from sliding into chaos. On September 12, the White House press secretary hinted that Abiy was both expansive and undemanding: “The Ethiopian government has declared its readiness to go to talks anytime, anywhere, and should seize this moment to give peace a chance“”.
The real and biggest problem for Abiysays Alex de Waal, “it is Eritrea», The relationship with Isaias Afewerki and his claims, as well as the “what to do with his army divisions which are now effectively hostages” of Eritrea. “This is a dilemma for which he has only himself to blame.”
“When the outlines of the agreement, the realities of the battlefield and the backstory of broken promises will come to light, Abiy will struggle to tell a convincing story“.
“It is possible that Addis Ababa has a counter-proposal, probably along the following lines: the current peace process, led by Obasanjo, should continue with rumors for negotiations that include the cessation of hostilities and the lifting of the blockade against Tigray. This is a recipe for stalling“. Which is exactly what Abiy is aiming for, but also Isaias.
“Despite ENDF’s battlefield losses, this approach may still work for Abiy. As long as they can keep Tigray under lockdown, the federal government and Eritrea have time on their side. Hunger is an efficient weapon. If the Security Council is in a stalemate and the AU cannot devise a credible peace process in a short time, the Tigray War will follow Abiy’s undeclared logic: give hunger a chance“.
Abiy is silent, in these hours to speak are his drones. In the last 48 hours, two heavy attacks. An attack, yesterday, of drones at the University of Mekelle and a television station in the Tigray region managed by the regional government. Today, ten people were killed. Two drones hit a neighborhood in the Tigray capital, Mekele.
The readiness of the Tigray government, considered by all observers and by most diplomacy, potentially capable of bringing about a turn towards peace, seems to have been rejected by Addis Ababa.
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