After two years of war, with thousands killed and millions displaced, the Ethiopian authorities and native groups in Tigray have pledged to cease hostilities.
The war the Ethiopian government started against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in November 2020 already lasts two years, leaving thousands dead and millions displaced both inside and outside the country.
“What was expected to be a few days invasion turned into a long lasting war”, explains to Spanish news website Protestante Digital Hans Walhout, Dutch evangelical missionary who worked in Ethiopia for nine years and continues to visit the country frequently. His latest trip was in October this year.
“It is hard to imagine how devastating this time has been for the northern region. A countless number of people died, infrastructure has been destroyed and civilians were cut off from electricity”, he adds.
The government of Addis Ababa has now announced a peace agreement with TPLF leaders.
“For the sake of our peace and prosperity, we made the first choice to end the war. There is no such thing as a good war or a bad peace; war is bad regardless of who wins”, said the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative in the reconciliation process with neighbouring Eritrea.
He pointed out that his government “has discussed, agreed and signed. Now we must keep our word by keeping our promises”.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has welcomed the peace deal “with satisfaction”, and the African Union mediation envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo has confirmed that “the two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to a cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly smooth and coordinated disarmament”.
In a statement recently issued, the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) “thank God and applaud the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray Regional leadership for signing the peace and disarmament agreement”.
“This agreement speaks to the cessation of hostilities, systematic, orderly, and coordinated disarmament. The peace initiative aligns perfectly with AEA’s long-term vision of the ‘Africa God Wants’”, states the AEA.
According to Walhout, “the agreement has not been reached now for any particular reason, but rather it responds to an extreme situation. Something had to happen to prevent a total extinction of the region”.
Obasanjo stressed that “this is not the end of the peace process”, which includes “restoration of law and order, services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians, especially women, children and other vulnerable groups”.
He also explained that the African Union high-level panel will supervise and monitor the implementation of the agreement by both sides, although some groups and organisations in Tigray have condemned it.
The peace agreement, signed in Pretoria on 2 November, includes among other things a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme for the TPLF, as well as the creation of humanitarian corridors to ensure the mobility of displaced people in the Tigray region.
Ethiopia also pledges to take control of the region and facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid, where the UN says there are more than 5.2 million people in need of assistance.
“All parties have been responsible for serious violations, including war crimes and crimes against humanity”, said Amnesty International, which also spoke of “summary executions” and “sexual violence”.
It remains to be determined how the parties submit, for example, to the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP), which was established in 2019.
[photo_footer] According to the UN, over 5.2 million people are in need of assistance in the region. / Rastakwere, Wikimedia Commons..[/photo_footer]
For Ahmed, the peace process with the TPLF “seeks to achieve peace, not to resolve an internal border conflict“.
However, the war started in part because of increased tension between the ethnic Oromo Prime Minister and the leadership of the TPLF, a party that has been dominant in government since 1991 and has reduced its influence since the arrival of the new head of government. This has partly fuelled indigenous demands from Tigray.
Walhout believes that “the ethnic tensions will not be resolved by a peace agreement. They are so much wider and complicated then just the tension between Tigray and the rest of the country”.
“I hope the peace agreement will stop the slaughter and inhumane practices but I don’t believe it will resolve ethnic tensions. At most, this will be the very premature start of it”, he adds.
The evangelical missionary “is not a pessimist”, but “a lasting restoration will not happen in the next months or years. The ethnic divide is so wide and deep that it will take generations to overcome, if it is possible at all”.
For Walhout, “driving factors for this are definitely education and economic development but making a difference within a generation is almost impossible”.
[title]Unity, the most precious gift of the church to Ethiopia [/title]
[text]Although it ranks 38th on Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Christianity has a millennial tradition in Ethiopia.
Newer Protestant and evangelical churches can find their space in the country, Walhout points out, and bring their influence to the conflict.
According to Walhout, "it would be a blessing for the country if at least the Church displays unity. First unity in Christ and from there unity on country specific matters”.
“If the millions of Christians would have a deep understating that God doesn’t care about black or white, Amhara or Tigray and that our eternal homes are not on the earth, it would be a great blessing for the country. We can only pray for the country and do whatever we can do within our reach”, concludes the evangelical missionary.[/text]