By Patrick Ferras, president of the African Strategies association, teacher at IRIS Sup ‘and specialist in Ethiopia.
Since the beginning of November 2020, the Tigray region has been the scene of a conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government joined by the Eritrean army and Amhara militias. After eight months of conflict, a “ceasefire in principle” has been decided, but remains uncertain since it is unilateral. Can the latter be the sign of a peace process between the two camps? In a complex electoral and humanitarian context, can we foresee the end of this conflict? Update with Patrick Ferras, president of the African Strategies association, teacher at IRIS Sup ‘ and specialist in Ethiopia.
After having reconquered the town of Mekele on June 28, pro-TPLF (Tigray Defense Force) forces have retaken part of Tigray and today say they are ready to accept a “ceasefire in principle” under conditions. Among them are the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces supporting the Ethiopian army. Do these requirements seem possible to you in view of the past between the different territories?
The Tigrayans have announced that they agree in principle to the ceasefire agreement, but with preconditions. Among them, they demand that the Ethiopian, Eritrean and Amhara militias leave all of Tigrayan territory. There will be no possible discussion until these forces have left this region. Ethiopian and Eritrean forces appear to have left Tigray or are about to do so. There remain the Amhara militias who conquered a small part of the Tigrayan territory in the west of the country. It will surely be a source of tension or even a possibility of Tigrayan military intervention in the coming weeks. The TPLF wishes to recover all of its territory, and to ensure its defense and policy there. In addition to these preliminary requests, they demanded that all those arrested or interned for criteria of belonging to the Tigrayan group be released as quickly as possible. Inescapable conditions that the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed refuses to endorse.
As it stands, the positions are 180 degrees both on Abiy Ahmed’s side and on the side of TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, ruling out the possibility of each taking a step forward. Before the appointment of the new Prime Minister or his reappointment, which will take place at the end of September at the beginning of October at the next parliamentary meeting, three months of window of opportunity open to the two camps in order to engage or not in discussions. However, the two men are unlikely to find themselves around a negotiating table as the Ethiopian National Assembly has ruled that the TPLF is a terrorist movement. However, today, the Tigrayans arrive in a position of strength with a political and military victory,
After being postponed to June 21, the elections were finally held in Ethiopia, but partially. What can we expect from it? Can their results have any weight in the current security context?
Today, the situation on the ground shows that the elections whatever their results will not be of great interest and there is little chance that they will have an impact on the context. Most of the eyes are on what is happening in the north, that is, what the Tigrayans are going to do, what are their demands in relation to the ceasefire agreement wanted by Abiy Ahmed. The Prosperity Party, the Prime Minister’s party, is expected to be declared the winner in these elections and is expected to be re-elected in September October when Parliament meets. However, even with an important victory, everything remains to be done. Abiy Ahmed will play on this victory, but the political and military defeat suffered in Tigray has relegated the results to the background.
The war in Tigray has generated a serious humanitarian crisis, which the UN announced on Friday, July 2: “More than 400,000 people have crossed the threshold of famine and […] 1.8 million additional people are on the brink. famine ”. Faced with the destruction of many infrastructure essential to supply, do the international community and NGOs still have room for maneuver in the region?
At the request of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, all humanitarian aid will be accepted and endorsed by the Tigray authorities. It is expected to resume depending on the situation of roads, towns, etc., after being blocked for five to six months or administered in a trickle, leading to severe famine situations across the region. Abiy Ahmed in particular asked for a “ceasefire” so that humanitarian aid can arrive, a reasonable logic even if he is at the origin of the blockage.
Today, the Tigrayans need it and have therefore requested as a precondition to the ceasefire agreement that the aid continue. The damage from delays and slowdowns may be minimized, but will still be substantial. It is not possible at present to feed the whole population in a state of famine, the situation requiring a long process. To do this, it is necessary for planes to be able to land in Mekele, which is not the case today, for road access to be possible and for bridges not to be destroyed simply to cut off the descent of Tigray troops. to the south, also paralyzing the delivery of humanitarian aid to the north.
The international community has the means to speed up the arrival of this humanitarian aid, because, on this point, the two parties agree. As part of the unconditional and unilateral ceasefire, Abiy Ahmed gave as reason the delivery of humanitarian aid. In its response, the TPLF declares that it will provide its full assistance for this delivery by ensuring the security of the distribution and of the personnel employed for this purpose.