PRETORIA – The Ethiopian government and regional forces from Tigray agreed on Wednesday to cease hostilities, a dramatic diplomatic breakthrough two years into a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.
Just over a week after formal peace talks mediated by the African Union (AU) began in the South African capital Pretoria, delegates from both sides signed an agreement on a “permanent cessation of hostilities”.
“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament,” Head of the AU mediation team, Olusegun Obasanjo, said at a ceremony.
Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, said the agreement also included “restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians”.
An agreement had not been expected so soon.
Earlier on Wednesday, the AU invited media to what it described as a briefing by Obasanjo. It was only when the event began, about three hours behind schedule, that it became clear a truce was about to be signed.
“This moment is not the end of the peace process,” Obasanjo said. “Implementation of the peace agreement signed today is critical for its success.”
Obasanjo, who stepped down as Nigeria’s president in 2007 and has since mediated conflicts across Africa, praised the process as an African solution to an African problem, and he added that this would be supervised and monitored by a high-level AU panel.
Ethiopia prime minister Abiy Ahmed expressed gratitude to Obasanjo and other mediators on the conclusion of the peace talks, saying in a statement the government’s commitment to the implementation of the agreement was strong.
“Our commitment to peace remains steadfast,” the statement on Twitter read. “And our commitment to collaborating for the implementation of the agreement is equally strong.”
At the Pretoria ceremony, Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray authorities, spoke of the wide scale death and destruction in the region and said it was his hope and expectation that both parties honour their commitments.