The Ethiopian government and rebels from the northern Tigray province have agreed to a permanent cessation of hostilities. No one knows how many have died, but over two years of brutal war, the number is thought to be in the hundreds of thousands.
The war in Africa’s second-most populous country has seen abuses documented on both sides, with millions of people displaced.
“The level of destruction is immense,” the lead negotiator for Ethiopia’s government, Redwan Hussein, said. The lead Tigray negotiator Getachew Reda expressed a similar sentiment and noted that “painful concessions” had been made. Exhausted Ethiopians then watched them shake hands.
The full text of the agreement, including details on the disarmament and reintegration of Tigray forces, was not immediately available. “The devil will be in the implementation,” said former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who helped facilitate the talks.
Yet major questions remain. Eritrea, which has fought alongside neighbouring Ethiopia, was notably not part of the peace talks. It’s not immediately clear to what extent its deeply repressive government, which has long considered Tigray authorities a threat, will respect the agreement. Eritrea’s information minister didn’t reply to questions.
Forces from Ethiopia’s neighbouring Amhara region also have been fighting Tigray forces, but Amhara representatives are not part of the peace talks. “Amharas cannot be expected to abide by any outcome of a negotiations process from which they think they are excluded,” said Tewodrose Tirfe, chairman of the Amhara Association of America.
Another critical question is how soon aid can return to Tigray, whose communications and transport links have been largely severed since the conflict began. Doctors have described running out of basic medicines like vaccines, insulin and therapeutic food while people die of easily preventable diseases and starvation.
United Nations human rights investigators have said the Ethiopian government was using the “starvation of civilians” as a weapon of war.
“We’re back to 18th century surgery,” a surgeon at the region’s flagship hospital, Fasika Amdeslasie, told health experts at an online event Wednesday. “It’s like an open-air prison.”