“Unconditional” ceasefire: Is there any practical meaning to it?
Why do people start war? No one would argue that it is for fun. War is an extension of politics; and politics is about ideologies and about group or national economic interests. Simpler differences in ideologies and interests may be resolved through give and take negotiations. The shared elements within the different ideologies and divergent interests may be used as basis for reconciliation and even to form coalition governments. When ideologies are polarized, and interests become irreconcilable each side would decide to impose its will on the other by force of arms. The resort to arms as a means to achieve goals is more common in a situation where a neutral third party does not exist, or sovereignty does not allow external intervention to resolve the issue peacefully. Peaceful settlement requires courage to call a spade a spade. It is rare if not impossible for both sides in a conflict to be right. Using universal standards of morality and justice one of the two parties to a conflict must be wrong in many if not in all of its justifications for involvement in the war. Hitlerite Germany had its own ideology and interests; so did the then Soviet Union. Germany decided to invade Soviet Union to get more territory for its economic ambitions motivated by the “Lebensraum” ideology. The Soviet Union entered the war to defend itself as a sovereign state. Imagine of a call for an unconditional ceasefire, out of concern about more destruction and loss of human lives, while German troops are deep in Soviet territory committing all kinds of atrocities. Who insane mind is expecting both sides to stop fighting simultaneously as if a traffic red-light is flashed on their eyes? If they can stop fighting, without setting preconditions, whenever they are told to stop, it implies that they had no sufficient reason to start the war in the first place. War is not started if there is no sufficient reason to do so. The reason may be acceptable and judged as rational or it may be unacceptable and irrational. The judgement may vary depending on the interest and ideology of the third party passing the verdict.
The irreconcilable differences in ideology and interest that are used to justify wars are those listed in the preconditions. Having no preconditions is the same as having no reasons to fight in the first place. The hope that the irreconcilable differences that led to war have already been resolved during the course of the war or could be solved after an unconditional ceasefire is unrealistic. It is, of course, preferable to solve differences without going to war; but this is the fancy of a dreamer. When if both sides are not willing to give up isn't war going to be the logical outcome? Would there be regrets in the middle of the war by any of the two sides that the defense of fundamental values was wrong? Here is a simple example: Without going into details the complex almost internationalized Tigray war can be summarized as the war between protecting the federal system and restoring the unitary system in Ethiopia. It is clear that the two are dichotomies that cannot exist in one place at the same time. So, it is impossible for the two political ideologies to sit around the table and make peace for coexistence. Only one of them can prevail. In the Ethiopian situation it is either the Federalist side led by Tigray, or the advocates of the unitary system led by the Abiy government, with the Amhara imperialists on the driver seat, that can prevail. The war is expected to decide that. A cease fire without precondition means negotiating federal system (devolution) with unitary system (centralism). The “unity of opposites” works only in dialectical materialism. No country can have two constitutions enforced at the same time.
USA, EU, China, and Russia don't care whether Ethiopia is federal or unitary. What they want is to impose their interest in Ethiopia undisturbed. Who rules, dictator or democrat, is not their problem as long as they can have a free hand in the economy and diplomacy of a particular state. Of course, they prefer unitary system because they would pull only one string to ensure their national interests. When they learn that the government of Abiy they supported to come to power is misbehaving and embarrassing them they would like to punish it but not too severely. When they see that people are killed and deliberately starved in Tigray with genocidal intent silence on the tragedies tests their humanity. Unable to choose sides they prefer to go for something which is more easily said than done: “CEASE FIRE WITHOUT PRECONDITION”! Most world states, almost everyone, think that cease fire and negotiation is the wisest alternative to destructive wars. In theory, yes! In practice, No! It is like “belling the cat” theory and “who is going to bell the cat?” practice. The Abiy government has named Tigray a terrorist state and is decided to eliminate it. The Amhara allies (masters) of Abiy are determined to end Tigray's leadership of history and religion and annex a third of its territory. Isaias of Eritrea, the ayatollah of the triple-alliance, wants to delete Tigray from the map of Ethiopia. Tigray on the opposite side is struggling against all odds to save itself from extinction. Are these intentions reconcilable? If they were reconcilable no war would exist between the alliance to exterminate Tigray and the Tigray to save itself. Unless those claiming to be neutral are deliberately blindfolded and cannot see the reality Tigray is defending itself and the alliance is attacking it. Is it fair to ask both to stop when “the neutral” are scared to face the truth and punish the attacker? There is no doubt that the defender would stop defending once the attacker stops attacking. It is not enough for the attacker to stop attacking for the defender to stop defending so as to end the war. If the attacker has done or is still doing something during the war that are harmful to the existence of the defender preconditions are not only unavoidable but also justifiable. Western Tigray is still in the hands of the Amhara and Eritrean forces; Tigray is under siege in which all power, communication, and financial services are cut and a food and medical supply blockade is imposed with an evil intention to kill millions in Tigray; Tegaru are rounded up and taken to concentration camps similar to Nazi Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen; widespread ethnic cleansing of Tegaru from the civil service; and no budget for Tigray and civil servants are starving without salaries and health and educational services are wrecked in the entire Tigray. How on earth could Tigray stop the war and negotiate with the afore mentioned inhumanities in place? Isn't the proposal for ceasefire without precondition a death sentence for Tigray emboldening the perpetrators?
“Both of you diplomacy” is like a “cutting the Gordian knot”-diplomacy. Not caring to thoroughly examine the intricacies of the war in Tigray, and call the spade a spade, is the denial of justice. How could Tigray negotiate as Tigray when a third of its territory is under occupation and the people in it are killed and displaced? How could Tigray come wearing a necktie to a round table while millions of its people are starving to death as a result of the blockade? How is Tigray going to sit in front of its enemies without an assurance that they will be punished for their war crimes in Tigray till this very day? Stopping a war does not solve fundamental problems unless the problems that caused the war are solved prior to negotiations. That is what preconditions are for. There is no win-win for the just and unjust in the kind of dirty war taking place in Tigray. Such wars are inherently win-lose where the just wins and the unjust loses. Third parties refereeing negotiations have to live with such facts of real life. There is no permanent solution to a conflict without solving the core problems that led to it. The world does not learn from its several mistakes of trying to end conflicts by putting equal pressure on both parties in a conflict. The careless “both of you diplomacy” during the Badme conflict triggered a war that caused the death of a hundred thousand on both sides. When Badme was invaded by Eritrea Ethiopia declared war on Eritrea. AU and the rest of the world was not wise enough to call Eritrea a spade and avoid the bloody war that followed. Every tom, dick, and harry diplomat was applauded for proposing: “both Ethiopia and Eritrea must stop the war”. I have taken an introductory semester course in international relations; but I did not notice so much of simplicity in diplomatic action in the course as I see how the world tries to end conflicts. Any child can say they are “worried” and the “war must be stopped”. That is what small children are saying when interviewed after surviving an accident in war.
Much more analysis and synthesis is expected to get deep to the roots of the war in Tigray rather than chasing sensational news like the paparazzi about the “attack on the Northern Command” and the “TDF in Dessie threatening Addis Ababa”, etc. The diplomatic tools for the USA, UN, EU, AU should not be as simple as scissors and clippers; proposing cease fire without preconditions is nothing different. Unless USA, UN, EU, AU stop playing like a village elder, who eases household conflicts by asking both spouses to be patient and love one another, no wars can be avoided or shortened. If USA, UN, EU, AU are really serious about ending the war in Ethiopia they have to be more courageous to endorse without hesitation the preconditions set by Tigray. The fundamental obstacle to action by USA, UN, EU, AU is the universally held but wrong opinion that the war is between Ethiopia as a state and a rebel group called TPLF. The wrong perception or conception is destroying every chance for ending the conflict. The real picture of the conflict is an illegal party leading the government in Ethiopia has declared a genocidal war on the entire people of Tigray, who elected TPLF to lead them, in an unholy alliance with Amhara extremists and Eritrean mercenary army. The war is not Ethiopia versus Tigray. If the statements I am making in this part of my last paragraph are taken as guide for action by the USA, UN, EU, AU, Ethiopia will remain safe. Tigray knows who its bitter enemies are. The world community must know that Tigray is just fighting for its life. Tigray does not need to destroy Ethiopia to save itself. Bringing to justice the perpetrators hiding at Arat Kilo and crying wolf about “Saving Ethiopia from TDF” is just enough.
The world must be too intelligent to listen to the habitual lies and deceit of the Arat Kilo leaders. They just want to save their lives and if possible, their power at all costs including the destruction of Ethiopia. This is not trading accusations. The world can save Ethiopia not by asking for unconditional ceasefire, which simply extends the war because none of both sides want to stop it until it gets what it wants. Ethiopia can be saved only by ensuring the right of Tigray to exist. Otherwise trying to stop pain from malaria by providing anti-pain pills instead of anti-malarial drugs kills the patient. Ethiopia can survive and thrive only as a federation. The proponents of the unitary system must remove the archaic ideology from their heads if they really love Ethiopia not themselves. The world community should not waste time on lame diplomacies; it must use its political and military tools to enforce a new inclusive government that does not brand some of its citizens as terrorists and others blessed as dear sons and daughters.