Implementation of Pretoria agreement speeds up
Ethiopia’s federal government would retake command of the city of Mekelle, capital of the Tigray regional state, in the coming few days, exactly two years after the onset of war in November 2020. On December 29, 2022, federal police troops were stationed in Mekelle to safeguard federal facilities and ensure the smooth functioning of everyday activities.
The Pretoria and Nairobi peace treaties have allowed the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) to secure strategic areas in the region. The disarming of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters is also being monitored by the AU-led Monitoring, Verification, and Compliance Mission (MVCM) team.
In the presence of Olusegun Obasanjo, Uhuru Kenyatta, Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD), secretary general of IGAD, officials of the federal government, including Gedion Timotios (PhD), minister of Justice, and officials of the TPLF, the MVCM officially began its mission on Thursday in Mekelle.
Antony Blinken, secretary of state of the United States, praised the launch of the AU-led disarmament team. “The signing and launch of the AU-MVCM in Mekelle is another important step towards securing lasting peace for the people of northern Ethiopia,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday.
Ten military experts from different African countries, including South Sudan and Kenya, make up the MVCM team, which has already begun to observe the collection of heavy weaponry held by the TPLF at Agula, which is located close to Mekelle.
“We saw a lot of enthusiasm among the population,” Steven Radina (Maj. Gen.), head of the MVCM, said. “I visited a mechanization garrison at Agula, where I saw an assortment of heavy weapons and the willingness to hand over and continue with the peace process.”
Once the handover of the heavy weapons to the ENDF is completed, the process continues for the light weapons, culminating in the full implementation of the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program.
When the disarmament is fully implemented, Eritrean and Amhara forces are expected to withdraw from the Tigray region, according to officials at the federal government. Reports say that Eritrean troops have started to leave the region.
Regional elections will be conducted in Tigray after the region is fully stabilized. An interim government will be formed in Tigray, comprising the TPLF, the federal government, and opposition parties in Tigray, according to Redwan Hussein (Amb), security advisor to the Prime Minister. He stated this while briefing members of the opposition party at the African Leadership Excellence Academy on December 28, 2022.
The battalion of ENDF has already arrived in Mekelle to take over the weapons, Getachew Reda, TPLF spokesperson said while speaking during the launch ceremony of the MVCM.
On the other hand, the federal government is also fulfilling the TPLF’s demands, including the resumption of basic services and humanitarian assistance provision.
The federal institutions in Tigray are quickly resuming operations after cabinets of the federal government, led by Tagesse Chafo, the house speaker, arrived in Mekelle for the first time in two years on Thursday.
Ethiopian Airlines began flights to Mekelle, with plans to resume Shire flights and triple Mekelle flights beginning Monday, January 1, 2023. Ethio telecom has also resumed its connection to Mekelle and 28 other towns in the region after repairing more than half of its 1,800 kilometers of fiber-optic cable in the conflict areas. Electricity, transportation, and banking services are also resuming, while banks are facing liquidity problems as fresh injections are required into their branches in Tigray.
By December 29, over 106,000 metric tons of humanitarian aid and 1,400 metric tons of medicine had been provided to Tigray since the peace agreement was signed on November 2, 2022.
“We have walked the talk,” Olusegun Obasanjo said during the MVCM launch in Mekelle on Thursday. After being assigned by the AU 17 months ago to find a way out of the deadly conflict between the federal government and TPLF, he traveled to Mekelle for the 10th time.
“The suspicion and the heated debate eventually led to the peace agreement. An agreement that will be implemented slowly. The trust building is really crucial,” said Uhuru Kenyatta, who also hopes to see the celebration of the completion of the peace progress in Addis Ababa by the time the Ethiopian Christmas arrives, which will be on January 7, 2022.
However, officials from both the federal government and Tigray state say there is still a lot of work to be done to end the war.
Delisting the TPLF from the terrorist designation, political negotiations regarding the representation of Tigray in the federal government, ensuring transitional justice, solving the Wolkait issue, healing the social fabrics, and reconstructing the war-affected regions remain heavy on the federal government’s shoulders.
On the other hand, the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces, the return of all IDPs to their homes, and the full supply of humanitarian aid and full resumption of services concern the TPLF officials.
“There are several parts of the agreement that are to be implemented. Parties might have concerns, be it about the pace of the implementation or others. Nevertheless, we are on a positive trajectory. The government has shown support for the full implementation, and too much blood has been shed and lost,” Gedion said. He says that it is time for a rebuild. We must take lessons from the past two years. “There is much work ahead on DDR.”
However, both parties agreed not to allow any mistrust to develop, as this would jeopardize the peace process’s progress.
“No spoiler, from here or outside, should be allowed to stand in the way of that mission to rebuild our communities. We are prepared to ensure that any relapse into mutual distrust does not succeed,” Getachew responded.
Kenyatta is looking forward to the meeting in Addis Ababa, “where Ethiopia will take full control over their affairs and ensure a peaceful and lasting resolution is found.”