Ethiopian Bishops applaud peace agreement for Tigray
By Lisa Zengarini
The Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia have welcomed the recent deal for a “permanent cessation of hostilities” between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and have urged all stakeholders to continue working “diligently” for a viable and lasting peace in the country.
The Agreement for Lasting Peace in Ethiopia
The agreement brokered by the African Union (AU) was signed on November 2 in Pretoria, South Africa, to put an end the two-year conflict in Tigray which has killed thousands of civilians, displaced over over 2,5 million people, and has caused a major humanitarian crisis.
Under the deal, TPLF and the Addis Ababa agreed to implement transitional measures that include restoring Constitutional order in Tigray, solving political differences, and a Transitional Justice Policy framework to ensure accountability, reconciliation, truth, and healing.
An aspiration of all Ethiopians
In a message issued on December 22, at the closing its Annual Ordinary Assembly held in Mekanisa, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) hailed the agreement, saying that “the current process was the prayer and wish of all Ethiopians to end the conflict and war in Ethiopia”.
Humanitarian aid should be provided to all victims
Remarking that the distribution of humanitarian aid “is also helpful for the implementation of the agreement, and that the Church is already contributing to this effort, the message further calls on the institutions to continue their support to the population, reaching out to all the affected areas in the country, especially in the south and east suffering severe drought.
The bishops also call on the faithful “to resolve any dispute through peaceful means and dialogue, expressing “sadness and concern” over the killings, displacement and persecution of people and the destruction of properties in some several parts of the country, and therefore
The CBCE further notes that growing unemployment and inflation are forcing more and more young Ethiopians to emigrate, or accept badly paid jobs. The message, therefore, urges the government and relevant stakeholders to work together to ensure that the “citizens’ rights to work and support themselves and their families are protected”. Finally the bishops decry the rampant corruption which continues to harm Ethiopian citizerns and “is spreading as a result of selfish attitudes”
High-level federal delegation dispatched to Tigray on 26 December
Meanwhile, on Monday the Ethiopian government announced it has dispatched a high-level federal delegation to Tigray to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement. According the statement, “This gesture is an attestation to the peace agreement getting on the right track and progressing”.
The two-year war in Ethiopia
The war in Tigray erupted on 4 November 2020, allegedly in response to an attack by TPLF against an Ethiopian military base in the region.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised a swift victory, but the fighting has escalated into a widespread conflict, extending to other regions of Ethiopia, including the Amhara, Afar and Oromia state regions, and involving ethnic militias and Eritrean soldiers. Earlier this year, a five-months fragile ceasefire offered some respite to the population, but in August fighting resumed with drones and shells hitting indiscriminately civilians and almost totally blocking the supply of humanitarian aid.
The issue of the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray
A major key to the success of the implementation of the peace agreement signed on 2 November, is the full withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray. TPLF officials have said that the withdrawal is a precondition before surrendering their weapons. This issue has also been voiced by the European Union and the US government. Eritrean forces crossed the Ethiopian border after the outbreak of the war in Tigray supporting the Ethiopian government against the TPLF.
The two countries, which had been in a no-war, no-peace stance since 1999 over border issues, have normalized their relations in 2018 when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed agreed to hand over the disputed border town of Badme to Eritrea.
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