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By Toyosi Clement

It has been 12 months since the Tigray Peace Deal was signed between the Ethiopian federal government and the TPLF. The question is, how effective has the African Union been in securing that peace? 


It’s now been one year since the signing of The Tigray Peace deal by the Ethiopian federal government and the political party, the TPLF, bringing an end to the 2-year conflict between the two in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. However, this article argues that the results are mixed.

While the peace deal has undoubtedly helped to reduce the intensity of violence, the peace process needs to go further to address underlying political challenges and pre-existing ethnic tensions. As the brokers of the agreement, the African Union (AU) needs to do more to ensure that sustainable peace is achieved. Measures should include addressing governance and human rights issues, promoting dialogue between conflicting parties; and supporting development initiatives in the region. Without this intervention, the conflict in Tigray could continue to pose a major threat to regional stability in the Horn of Africa. 


The African Union 

Re-established in 2002, the African Union is a very important organisation, representing African interests on world affairs. It also provides a forum for African leaders to collaborate and act on shared principles of democracy, international law, the protection of human rights, and improving trade between member states. 

One of the biggest obstacles facing the AU is its lack of resources and funding for conflict prevention. Arguably, when the AU collaborates with other international organisations such as the United Nations in Darfur (2004-07) or in Somalia, it is more effective at dealing with larger conflicts. However, this then exhausts its resources which should be channelled into conflict prevention, namely,more attention is required to recognise and address early signs of conflict – and nipping them in the bud. 

Therefore, as an interconnected global village, the African Union should continue to collaborate with international organisations like the UN and countries like the UK to ensure that aid and regular monitoring of Tigray is sustained. Moreover, the AU should also push for the renewal of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia’s (ICHREE) mandate. Subsequently, the security of Tigray as an international initiative could translate into on-the-ground human rights experts, who can notify the international community of human rights violations, and hopefully cause them to act. 


How is the Agreement holding up? 

Although the Pretoria Agreement, as the peace agreement is often called, is evidence of both sides acknowledging that a prolonged conflict would cause further calamity and demonstrates an effort to maintain peace, there are still many issues which, if left unresolved, have the potential to provoke future conflict. 

What are the main issues? 

Firstly, the overarching goal of the Agreement is to end all hostilities. One of the commitments to the deal is the complete disarmament of the TPLF, yet this goal is unlikely to be met as opposing troops from the state of Amhara in Ethiopia and Eritrea have been accused of committing crimes such as rape and ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans within the region.  

During the war, both Amharan and Eritrean troops fought on the side of the Ethiopian federal government against the TPLF: Amhara is a massive electoral supporter of the federal government, and Eritrea is a regional ally too. While the conflict between Amhara and Tigray has continued for several decades, the conflict between Tigray and Amhara plus Eritrea is due to disagreements over their borders with Tigray. As a result, the disarmament of the TPLF – without any Eritrean or Amharan forces being held to account for their crimes – means that tensions are likely to escalate. 

Another problem with the Agreement is TPLF’s promise to have a more inclusive government and hold new elections. This is a positive step towards tackling a major cause of tension between the two governments. For example, the TPLF ran its own elections during the COVID pandemic – against the permission of the federal government, which had suspended elections that year because of the pandemic. To the TPLF, however, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was overstepping the limits of his constitutional term, and both governments deemed each other illegitimate.  

Crucially, such a transition to a more inclusive government has not yet happened, so it is important that this transition is carefully monitored by the AU to ensure both governments are upholding their end of the Agreement and that trust is fostered. 

Another issue within the agreement, and perhaps the biggest issue, is the commitment of the federal government to ensure the citizens of Tigray are protected and catered for. Instinctively, it is well within the Ethiopian federal government’s means to make the welfare of the Tigrayan citizens a national priority, and as the international community states, the federal government must ensure there are no obstructions to those political objectives, as previously demonstrated in the humanitarian blockade imposed by PM Abiy on Tigray. 

The issue here is the amount of control at PM Abiy’s disposal. He can decide whether or when to act, which could risk prolonging the conflict if it is not within his interests or if there is no external influence for him to do so. 

Currently, there are many issues within the Agreement that make peace a very difficult task. It is the federal government that should be initiating the concessions to effect peace, but it seemingly lacks the political will or desire to address these issues. 


Conclusion: What do we want to see?  

1. We want to see the AU calling for a re-draft of the Peace Agreement to address the underlying political and ethnic tensions in the Tigray region, and we want to see these issues tackled effectively.

2. It is imperative that the AU collaborates with other international organizations to provide on-the-ground reporting in conflicting African countries so that smaller conflicts appear on their radar before they escalate. 

3. We also want to see more pressure being applied on countries lacking the political will to play their part in the interconnected global village, where we are all our brother’s keepers.

The AU has undeniably played a significant role in fostering peace in Tigray, and by implementing these measures, the Tigray Peace Deal can be used as an exemplary agreement that the AU can use to signal peace in other African states too.

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