On Oct. 25, peace talks between the Ethiopian army and forces from the Tigray region began in South Africa with the goal to end their two-year war against each other, a spokesperson for the South African government said.
With hundreds of thousands dead, the talks are the latest and most concentrated effort to cease the violence and destruction.
De-escalation in Ethiopia
According to spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, the talks were mediated by the African Union (AU). The negotiations began on Tuesday, and are expected to reach its conclusion on Oct. 30.
The talks came after the Ethiopian government captured several large towns in the Tigray region last week, backed by allied forces from Eritrea. The violence increased concerns of the danger posed to civilians, which prompted leaders of the world, alongside Pope Francis, to broker negotiations.
Kindeya Gebrehiwot, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said that the organization wishes for an effective end of the conflict, with humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from the region, The Guardian wrote.
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The Ethiopian government said that the talks would be a chance to end the conflict and “consolidate the improvement of the situation on the ground.”
The Ethiopian government and Tigray authorities sent delegates to South Africa this week. Ethiopia’s national security adviser Redwan Hussein and Tigray forces spokesperson Getachew Reda and Gen. Tsadkan Gebretensae represented their respective parties in the talks.
“Such talks are in line with South Africa’s foreign policy objectives of a secure and conflict-free continent,” Magwenya said.
AU chairman, Moussa Faki Mahamat, was said to have been “encouraged by the early demonstration of commitment to peace by the parties.”
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, along with former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Deputy President of South Africa Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, led the AU mediation team for the talks. Representatives from the United Nations and the U.S. also attended as observers, the AU said.
“We are looking very eagerly at Pretoria to the talks. That’s the only way forward,” Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said at a press conference on Tuesday in Nairobi. “If the parties do not really engage meaningfully in a negotiated solution we’ll be in this situation forever.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told those involved to “engage seriously and agree an immediate truce,” Reuters reported.
“These talks represent the most promising way to achieve lasting peace and prosperity for all Ethiopians,” he said in a statement.
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The war between the Ethiopian government and the TPLF was catalyzed by already-existing tensions caused by the 2018 victory of Prime Minister Ably Ahmed, who overthrew the TPLF as the ruling coalition after thirty years in power.
The current government accused the TPLF for attempting to retake control of the country, while the latter accused the former for the oppression of Tigrayans and “over-centralising power.”
In November 2020, Abiy Ahmed deployed troops into Tigray in response to a supposed attack on government military bases.
The war caused a blockade of the Tigray region, which threatened its six million inhabitants with a food crisis and limited humanitarian aid. An attempt to provide humanitarian aid to the region was thwarted when fighting resumed in August, following months of relative peace.
On Tuesday, World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a Tigrayan himself and former minister of the Ethiopian government, criticized the government for causing many people to suffer from a “man-made famine” for the past two years.
“Due to the siege in #Tigray, Ethiopia, many people have died of starvation, man made famine & lack of access to essential health care in past 2 years,” Tedros posted on Twitter.
The Ethiopian government in return accused Tedros of attempting to empower Tigray forces, while also denying its alleged atrocities in the region.