In case of potential controversies regarding the peace agreement signed between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government in South Africa at the beginning of November 2022, HaqCheck has done an analysis of the terms of the peace deal and its ongoing status.
Since 1991, the TPLF had been a dominant political force in Ethiopia ruling the country with an iron fist till 2018. Ethiopia had witnessed a widespread popular protest against the ruling party, EPRDF. The then prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn was forced to resign amid the massive unrest.
The public uprising culminated when the TPLF-dominated EPRDF elected a new party chairman and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The new Prime Minister soon introduced drastic reforms within the ruling party including changing its program and organizational structures. The coalition EPRDF party was then dismantled and transformed into a more unified and liberal Prosperity Party.
The relationship between the TPLF and the other regional parties particularly with the then Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) and the Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) began to sour.
Contention between the TPLF and the federal government reigned between 2018 and 2020.
In June 2020 the Ethiopian House of Federation approved the decision of the electoral board and the lower house to postpone the sixth national election due to the coronavirus.
The TPLF denounced the postponement of the election by the parliament and proceed with holding a regional election in September 2020. It was reported that the TPLF won the regional election 100 percent.
Soon after, the TPLF announced that the federal government was not elected and was illegitimate.
In October 2020, the Ethiopian House of Federation ruled that federal authorities should cut off contact with the Tigray regional legislative and executive bodies.
The federal government cut a subsidy budget to the regional state of Tigray and order government offices to cut any ties with the TPLF-led regional authority.
The tension culminated in a war that broke out on the evening of November 3, 2020.
The TPLF said that it had conducted a preemptive strike against the ENDF units based in Tigray.
The Ethiopian army along with the Eritrean counterpart and other regional forces quashed the TPLF forces and took control of the regional capital Mekelle within three weeks.
However, the insurgency continued in the regional state. The Ethiopian government with a request from the then Tigray Interim administration declared a humanitarian ceasefire and pulled its armed forces from Mekelle and many areas of the region.
After the TPLF forces controlled Mekelle in June 2021, they marched toward the Amhara and Afar regional states and seized many towns such as Woldia, Kombolcha, Dessie, and Debre Tabor.
Yet, the overstretched TPLF armed forces were driven out of the Afar and Amhara regions after a coordinated offensive by the Ethiopian government and its allied forces.
Cessation of Hostilities
Thereafter, the Ethiopian government declared a cessation of hostilities with the TPLF on Mar 24, 2022. The unilaterally declared truce was immediately adopted by the TPLF.
Informal talks to settle the armed conflict were initiated by the African Union. The organization assigned former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to lead and facilitate talks between the belligerents.
The Ethiopian government established a negotiating team to look for a peaceful settlement to the war.
In August 2022, the TPLF announced preconditions such as the restoration of basic public services in the regional state to kickstart negotiation.
The federal government ignored TPLF preconditions and said that it was ready to start negotiation with no preconditions.
Resumption of Conflict
The TPLF announced on Aug 16, 2022, that the armed forces of the federal government attacked its forces with artillery and tanks violating the cessation of hostilities.
The federal government and the TPLF forces blamed each other for launching attacks violating the bilaterally-embraced truce.
The TPLF forces advanced southward and seized the town of Kobo. The federal government and allied forces soon rapidly marched in the TPLF-controlled areas in the northwestern parts of Tigray.
Major towns in the Tigray regional state including Shire, Aksum, Adwa, Korem, and Alamata took control by the Ethiopian government.
Pretoria Peace Agreement
On Nov 2, 2022, the federal government and the TPLF signed a peace agreement in South Africa, Pretoria. The peace deal dubbed ‘Agreement for lasting peace through a permanent cessation of hostilities between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)’ was signed under the auspices of the African Union.
What is the Pretoria Peace Agreement about?
According to the deal, the TPLF agreed to surrender its weapons within a month and disarm, demobilize and reintegrate its armed combatants into the Ethiopian defense force.
The federal government agreed to list the terrorist designation of the TPLF and restore essential services.
The parties to the deal agreed to establish an interim government within a week after the listing of the terrorist designation of the TPLF.
The Nairobi Declaration
On Nov 12, 2022, the senior commanders of the Ethiopian armed forces and the TPLF armed combatants met in Nairobi, Kenya, and crafted a modality on the further implementation of the Pretoria agreement.
Article two of the Nairobi declaration stated that the parties agreed that disarmament of heavy weapons should be done concurrently with the withdrawal of foreign and non-ENDF forces from the region.
The deal and the later declaration also asserted that a monitoring and verification committee should be established by the parties and shall be assisted by an expert team appointed by the African Union.
The current status of the implementation of the agreement
Reports indicate that humanitarian aid delivery and essential services such as transportation, telephone, and Internet connection have commenced in the regional state.
On Dec 3, 2022, the commander-in-chief of the TPLF armed forces said that 65% of the TPLF combatants were already withdrawn from the frontlines.
The Eritrean soldiers reportedly withdrew from the town of Aksum and Shire at the end of last month.
Controversies regarding a border dispute
The Tigray and Amhara regional states have been in a border dispute.
Article 10 of the Pretoria deal states that the parties agreed to solve the land dispute in accordance with the Ethiopian constitution.
The current Ethiopian constitution, article 39, sub-article 3, says that every nation, nationality, and people in Ethiopia has the right to self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government. Article 47 of the constitution also asserts groups can establish their state.
The request to form a self-government is accepted when the demand is approved by a two-thirds majority of the members of the legislative council of the administration (kebele, woreda, zone, region) in question.
For instance, in July 2018, the Sidama Zone Council decided to establish a Sidama regional state and the request was sent to the Southern Nations, Nationality, and Peoples Regional Council. The regional council in return voted in favor of the decision and allowed the zone to pursue statehood. The Ethiopian National Electoral Board arranged a referendum.
But this constitutional arrangement is applied when an administration wants to separate from a bigger administration and establish higher self-government.
The constitution has no explicit statement regarding the settlement of the border dispute between regional states.