An end to the murderous civil war in Ethiopia?

The warring parties in the civil war in Ethiopia signed a ceasefire today (Wednesday) after two years of brutal fighting that claimed hundreds of thousands of victims.

The leaders of the"and aid groups have recently issued dire warnings about the rapid deterioration of the situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia which is fighting for autonomy against the general Ethiopian government. The civil war escalated into harming innocents and a siege of Tigray that led to mass starvation. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said there is a very narrow window to prevent genocide in the region.

The warring parties signed the agreement in South Africa about a week after negotiations began with the mediation of the African Union.

The head of the mediation team of the African Union and former president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, said: "Both sides in the Ethiopian conflict have officially agreed to a cessation of hostilities as well as a systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disbandment".

The full text of the deal was not immediately released, but Obasanjo said the agreement includes: "Restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups".

He added: "This moment is not the end of the peace process. The implementation of the peace agreement signed today is critical to its success".

Fighting between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and Ethiopian forces along with their ally Eritrea intensified last month when government forces captured three key cities in the region.

The war, which began in November 2020, led to what they have"described as a de facto siege on Tigray. Thousands of people in Tigray have reportedly died due to starvation and disease, and millions have been displaced from their homes.

Some aid arrived in the region after a ceasefire temporarily halted the worst fighting earlier this year, but the ceasefire broke down in August. Fuel shortages and communication disruptions have since increased humanitarian efforts.

Key questions remain about the agreement. It is unclear if and when humanitarian aid workers will gain access to the area. It is also not clear whether Eritrea, which fought alongside the Ethiopian government in the region, will abide by the agreement. Eritrean officials were not present at the signing ceremony.

Although it is still impossible to know the true cost of the war, researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium estimate that so far about half a million people have died: between 50,000 and 100,000 from the fighting, 150,000 to 200,000 from starvation and more than 100,000 from the lack of medical aid. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed concern about possible ethnic cleansing in Tigray, but the government in Addis Ababa denied this.

Ethiopian flag
Ethiopian flag. Illustration. Photo: Image by natanaelginting on Freepik

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