Revisiting the Demands of Tigray for a Negotiated Ceasefire?
Haki Fanus 16.07.21
The Tigray Government’s first and foremost choice should always be to silence the guns and make peace with its arch enemies, so long as the minimum requirements are met by the offenders–such as ending the siege, arrests, murder, occupation and starving the people. A peaceful resolution of this dangerous human and security crisis would benefit all sides and humanity as it would stop further bloodshed, rescue millions of citizens from famine, restore law and order in the country and the wider region and hold those who have committed atrocities, sexual violence and destruction to account.
Defeat or sympathy?
After the genocidal forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea were decisively defeated by the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) in central and southwest Tigray, The Abiy regime was compelled to unorderly retreat from the Capital of Tigray, Mekelle, declaring a unilateral ceasefire. The despotic regime shamelessly mentioned farming season, facilitating humanitarian relief and giving a period of reflection to the people of Tigray as reasons for the evacuation. How on earth a regime and its cronies that collectively and callously massacred, raped and starved Tigrayan farmers and others got the guts to claim so?
Tigray’s peace demands
Following the forced and messy withdrawal of the Ethiopian army from Mekelle and other areas of the region, the Government of Tigray issued a statement titled ‘conditions for a negotiated ceasefire’ on 4 July 2021. This call for peace emphasized the fact that peace is a matter of existence for Tigray, the Abiy Ahmed regime has closed all avenues of peace for the last eight months, and outlined the following legitimate conditions:
- withdrawal of the Amhara and Eritrean forces from Tigray, including military and security personnel of Eritrea from the whole of Ethiopia;
- holding those responsible for the atrocities, systemic rape, property destruction and starvation to account before the International Criminal Court (ICC);
- restoring all public services to Tigray, including electricity, banking, telecommunications, transport;
- unimpeded access to humanitarian relief for the millions of people in Tigray who are in the verge of man-made starvation;
- recognising and reinstating the lawful regional Government of Tigray and releasing federal budget to Tigray in accordance with the Ethiopian Constitution, freeing the tens of thousands of Tigrayans detained in concentration camps; returning of, or compensating for, all looted and destroyed property by the invading forces;
- nullifying all laws and regulations that apply to Tigray enacted from 23 September,
2020; that is when the Abiy regime’s legal mandate had expired; and - third party mediated peace process.
Abiy and Amhara leaders’ deaf ears
The Abiy regime and its cronies turned a deaf ear to all these legitimate demands and continued to preach as a champion of the disingenuous unilateral ceasefire they have declared, but terribly failed to convince anyone other than their hardliners. In fact, to the dismay of the United Nations and other humanitarians it has continued its 360 degrees siege on Tigray by blocking aid and transport, critical public services and by demolishing infrastructure such as the Tekeze bridge in western Tigray which was essential for humanitarian delivery.
As the Amhara and Eritrean forces refused to leave Tigray, the TDF launched a concerted military operation on the federal and Amhara forces in southern and western Tigray. Special forces of the Amhara region along their militia and divisions and their mechanized unites have been decimated within 24 hours; several Tigray towns and thousands of Tigrayans have been freed from the monstruous Amhara, Eritrean and federal forces. Notably, towns of Alamata, Korom and Mai-Tsebri have been freed from genocidal forces and a dozen of heavy artilleries and tanks have been ceased by the TDF.
Worsening ethnic cleansing and aggression
Following the excruciating defeat of the Abiy and Amhara forces in central, Southern and western Tigray, the Abiy Ahmed regime, being supported by his Amhara and Eritrean security personnel, reinstated their mass arrests and harassment against Tigrayan civilians in all parts of Ethiopia outside the warzone; tens of thousands of civilians have been taken away from their homes, caffes, restaurants, businesses and the streets of Addis Ababa and other cities as a revenge. City police stations and administration wholes in Addis have been filled with the Tigrayan youth a number of whom were returnees from Saudi prisons.
Over 48,000 Tigrayan lawful and tax paying businesses have been closed by the authorities in Addis alone. All bank accounts opened in Tigray have been suspended so that Tigrayans won’t use their funds for their daily lives. University students, traders, those who travel for personal and family reasons have been denied utilizing their own money as same as those who are in Tigray.
Most graphic is the revenge taken by the Amhara authorities and their supports on innocent civilians. Four Tigrayan civilians were brutally killed, mutilated and dragged in the town of Worota in south Gondor; similar barbarism has been reported from Kobo and Woldia in Wolo. This has been happening in Tigray towns such as Alamata, Waja and Korom when they were under the Amhara control but later liberated by the TDF.
In addition to their continued policy and practice of ethnic cleansing and barbarism, Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and Agejew Teshager of Amhara state have declared a renewed aggression against Tigray and called upon the Ethiopian (and Amhara) people to rise up. They also called upon the other regions of Ethiopia to mobilise their special police forces against Tigray.
The Tigray Government called upon the people of Amhara and others to distance themselves from the criminals of the Prosperity Party. Indeed, Tigray’s fight has a just cause, and by no means targets neither any particular community of Ethiopia nor their internal territory.
Revisiting the July 4 conditions?
Taking into consideration these developments and the deplorable behavior of the Abiy regime and its Amhara partners in crime, the conditions for a negotiated peace need to be revisited.
In principle, the seven conditions summarized earlier are politically and legally valid and sensible. Nonetheless, revisiting some of them and introducing new ones must be considered. I outline my thoughts as below for discussion:
1. the demand that the Amhara and Eritrean forces from Tigray remains legitimate. Yet given that the Amhara, federal and Eritrean forces have been removed from Tigray’s territories through military force or coercion, and in light of the renewed declaration of war and mobilization of Oromo, Sidama, Somalia, Amhara and Eritrean forces or militia, the demand should now be extended to: a) ceasing their declaration of war, and b) returning the forces who have been mobilized towards the Tigray border to their respective regions. These forces have positioned themselves around the Afar, Wolo and Gondor regions. If not the TDF should, and is entitled to, defend Tigray and its population from another cycle of atrocities, collective rape, destruction and revenge by taking legitimate military action.
2. The Abiy regime and Amhara leaders must also take concrete measures of breaking ties with the Eritrean dictator, including by a) repatriating Ethiopian forces from Eritrea to Ethiopia and vice versa; b) suspending their military and security ties with Eritrea until peace is restored in Ethiopia and the wider region; and c) compelling and publicly calling upon the Eritrean despotic regime return Ethiopian military hardware, radar systems, looted factories, etc.
3. It is important that the Abiy regime and Amhara leaders are asked to accept their bitter defeat and stop lying the Ethiopian public; if some sort of a negotiated settlement is going to be achieved, misinforming the public from all sides must be stopped. In this regard, opening up the Ethiopian space for domestic and international media is imperative. Put it simply, the Abiy and Amhara officials must show some respect to the international community, the Ethiopian public and to victims of mass crimes in particular by telling the truth.
4. The demand that all avenues and means of humanitarian aid should be allowed- including land and air transport; given that the Abiy regime and his Amhara collaborators are deliberately hindering and delaying aid to Tigray by needlessly accusing aid agencies, introducing stringent procedures and demolishing bridges and diverting trucks, amongst other things, Tigray must demand an immediate and unconditional move from the regime to cease all these tactics and re-build critical infrastructure without delay. If not, the Abiy regime and its cronies should take full responsibility for all famine related deaths. Considering the irresponsibility of the Abiy and Eritrean regimes with respect to the safety of bridges and the likes, a no-fly zone must be imposed over Tigray with the exception of humanitarian and UN flights. The ban should include military and civilian drones.
5. The federal and Amhara authorities must halt their mass arrests, searches, harassment, targeting economic interests of Tigrayans without which it should not be possible to even commence sitting with them for negotiation. First and foremost, extrajudicial killings and mob attacks on Tigrayans must be halted and prevented. The federal and Amhara authorities must also stop their hate speech and genocidal rhetoric against Tigrayans. The involvement of Eritrean security forces in such ethnic cleansing project must also cease with immediate effect. These should ultimately be followed by releasing all Tigrayans from all concentration camps across Ethiopia. Those who stood for justice, such as the journalists of Ethio-Forum and Awlo media ought to be released immediately. And
6. Given the deceit and time-buying tactics utilized by the Abiy regime, the demand that the regime should give formal assurances to not target ethnic Tigrayans inside or outside Tigray, must also be taken into consideration.
If there is no sign of achieving these and the July 4 demands, the situation further deteriorates and the international community continues to fail the people of Tigray, however, the Tigray Government and its armed forces have no option but to continue with their military operations to the extent that they are necessary and proportional to defend the Tigray people from ethnic cleansing, genocide and crimes against humanity.
Of course, the Tigray Government’s first and foremost choice should always be to silence the guns and restore peace, so long as the minimum requirements are met by the offenders–such as ending the siege, arrests, murder, occupation and starving the people. A peaceful resolution of this dangerous human and security crisis would benefit all sides and humanity as it would stop further bloodshed, rescue millions of citizens from famine, restore law and order in the country and hold those who committed heinous crimes accountable.