It seems justice is scarified in the peace agreement for the sake of ending the war. But has the peace agreement itself considered the peace of TPLF’s victims too?
Last updated on November 4,2022
On Wednesday, the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace agreement in Pretoria, South Africa, after ten days of intense talks.
There is a mixed reaction to it. A considerable number of Ethiopians expressed joy out of the belief that it would end the suffering and deaths in the northern parts of Ethiopia including Tigray. It is understandable given the magnitude of destruction and two years of brutal war. It sounds as if the question of serving justice is sounding as a luxury compared to ending the hostility at any cost. It is not in the United States’ interest too in this case.
But there are also those who are strongly expressing a different point of view that emanates from mistrust towards the TPLF based on lived past experiences. These groups tend to think that some of the provisions in the agreement granted the TPLF an opportunity to buy time to recover from military losses and also a bargaining power over the Wolkait and Raya – parts of Gonder and Wollo respectively that the TPLF annexed as parts of Tigray region after a victory (it was western backed!) over colonel Mengistu Hailemariam’s government in 1991.
It is important to highlight the circumstances under which the peace talk in South Africa took place before looking into parts of the provisions of the agreement that are rather generating a great deal of concern for a considerable number of Ethiopians.
After the TPLF launched its third round of war on August 24, 2022 and took control of Kobo town South of Alamata with a move to march further south, and also attempt to control the gateway to Sudan in the west, allied forces were able to reverse the attack in both directions in a span of less than two months.
By early October 2022, the TPLF lost much of the areas it controlled in the Amhara and Afar regions and the fighting began to be fought in the Tigray region. Just before the beginning of the peace talk, the TPLF suffered devastating military losses and the allied forces were liberating town after town. The fall of Mekelle to the Ethiopian Force became imminent.
It was at that point that the United States and some of its western allies, the United Nations and European Union stepped up pressure on the Ethiopian government calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities. There was even a rumor that the United States government threatened the Ethiopian government not to make further advances and control Mekelle.
When the African Union-led peace talk started in South Africa on October 25, which the United States claims to have supported, the United itself showed up at the talk in Pretoria positioning itself as an “observer.” The United States State Department had been calling for the withdrawal of “Amhara Forces” from what it called “western Tigray.” The latest pressure on the Ethiopian government that came just before the start of the talk also suggested that the United States was determined to rescue the TPLF as a political entity. There was pressure on the Ethiopian government even at the peace talk. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed himself told Chinese broadcaster, CGTN, that there is pressure on the talk from left and right without naming names.
Now back to the signed agreement, Ethiopians are particularly making a reference to Article 10 section 4 of the agreement. It states that “The parties commit to resolving issues of contested areas in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. ”
The problem with that section, it is clearly understandable, is that the constitution itself is contested. It is contested because it was the TPLF that wrote the constitution under the guise of the coalition that it crafted – EPRDF. It is also contested because it legalized the annexations of Wolkait and Raya – areas where there had been questions of identity which led to extensive rights abuse by the TPLF. Taking the problem (the constitution) as a solution has certainly the potential to postpone the problem.
The areas in question are not just about identity demands too. Especially, the Wolkait area has a huge implication not only for the security of Ethiopia but also for the security of Eritrea. Given the problem of trust related to the TPLF and security vulnerability – that section of the article needs to be revisited.
Clearly, the United States has got away with what it wants from the agreement. The TPLF will continue to exist as an entity. Also, its advocacy for what it was referring to as “western Tigray” is to be resolved in a TPLF way.
In fact, there seems to be a great deal of skepticism that Article 5 section 3 is included in a way to serve TPLF’s claim of Wolkait and Raya.
Another point Eritrea, a party that was a victim of the TPLF and has paid immensely in the conflict, is ignored altogether. Several countries from the west and east have expressed congratulatory messages. Even Djibouti did so. Eritrea is silent, and it is has a meaning which is quite understandable given the security threat that TPLF posed in the past.
The focus of the United States was, apparently, to save TPLF in any form and buy time to influence changes in the region in a way that its trusted partner will have a posture of contending political force with no time. Seen from that angle, it is possible to say that the agreement has postponed the conflict. And it is the U.S. and TPLF interest that prevailed. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government needs to pause the euphoric mood and address the concerns in a way that resolves the country’s problem fundamentally. End ethnic land in the country to end ethnic based war over land.
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