How I Brokered Peace Between Warring Ethiopian, Tigrayan Sides – Obasanjo

A file photo of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has narrated how he brokered peace in the Ethiopia and Tigray war. 

Obasanjo detailed his efforts at bringing peace to the region in an article that was released by his media aide Kehinde Akinyemi on Tuesday.

He said the work lasted over 15 months, adding, however, that the cause of the crisis was not “unconnected with the assumption of office by Prime Minister Abiy and the reaction of Tigray leadership to what they perceived as the policies and programs of the prime minister”.

“As I traversed the country consulting with regional leaders and stakeholders in all walks of life, I observed and felt the impact of the destruction and losses at close quarters. I witnessed the wailing and crying of those who had lost loved ones, the sites of mass graves. The frustration, anger, and desperation caused by war was everywhere to be seen,” Obasanjo said.

“At the same time, I encountered local and foreign people — particularly community leaders and people in the civil society – working tirelessly to give help, hope, succor and life to victims and those in need.”

According to him, since the war started in November 2020, there were efforts on several levels to end the fight but they proved unsuccessful.  But he said this did not discourage him from continuing with visits, consultations and discussion.

“After eight months of intense shuttle diplomacy, including eight visits to Mekelle, Capital of Tigray, and the the Chairperson of AU Commission enlarging my panel with addition of former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, we finally succeeded,” Obasanjo said.

“A peace agreement was signed by the delegates and representatives of the Ethiopian Federal Government, TPLF and the Tigray people on Nov. 2.

“After five days of intense discussions in Nairobi Kenya in November, the military commanders agreed on modalities for the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.”

He believes that while attempts would be made to “dig holes in the agreement,” it “must be implemented in good faith”.

“The peace agreement and its implementation must be owned by the leaders and people of Ethiopia,” the former president added.

“The panel and the observers are mere facilitators, there to provide a guiding hand if needed.”

Read the full article below:

My Ethiopia-Tigray experience and the road to peace – Obasanjo

Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo is the African Union’s envoy to the Horn of Africa and oversaw the peace talks in Ethiopia. In this piece, he shares his experience on the conflict and proffer suggestions to how the peace move can be sustained.

Over the last fifteen months, I have been working as High Representative of African Union in the Horn of Africa to promote peace, security and stability. Because of its strategic position and the conflict raging in its northern region of Tigray, the focus and fulcrum has been Ethiopia.

After receiving my mandate from the Chairperson of AU Commission, Ambassador Moussa Faki Mahamat, I set out to seek the point of entry into a conflict which dates back to Solomonic times in the Bible or back to 2018 when Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy assumed office, depending on whom you are talking to.

Whatever the history, background or remote causes of the civil war in Tigray region, its immediate cause was not unconnected with the assumption of office by Prime Minister Abiy and the reaction of Tigray leadership to what they perceived as the policies and programs of the prime minister. The last straw was the alleged attack on the northern command of the Ethiopian Army located in Tigray by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

On Nov. 4, 2020, the TPLF attacked the Ethiopian Defence Forces garrison in Tigray. In response, Prime Minister Abiy ordered what was labeled “law and order action” to punish the alleged impunity of TPLF. The war raged for two years devastatingly and directly over four regions in Ethiopia – Tigray, Amhara Afar, Oromia. There was no part of the country that did not feel the effect of the war in one way or the other.

Some of the neighbors of Ethiopia such as Eritrea and Sudan had their part in the war directly and indirectly, and all countries in the Horn were impacted indirectly by the social, economic and political fallout.

The destruction caused in the Tigray region which was the main theater of the war was very high in human and material losses. It has been estimated that no fewer than 600,000 people died directly in battle or as a result of disease and the lack of access to humanitarian aid.

If destruction of lives caused directly and indirectly in other parts of Ethiopia particularly in Amhara, Afar, and Oromia is added, the estimated total lives lost in Ethiopia civil war would be close to one million. The cost of the reconstruction and rehabilitation of private and public properties and institutions has been estimated at about $25 billion.

To the quantifiable loss of lives and properties and other material losses must be added the unquantifiable losses of opportunities occasioned by the war. The cost of the destruction of trust and the breakdown of relationships within and without the country is high and will take years if not decades to fully rebuild.

As I traversed the country consulting with regional leaders and stakeholders in all walks of life, I observed and felt the impact of the destruction and losses at close quarters. I witnessed the wailing and crying of those who had lost loved ones, the sites of mass graves. The frustration, anger, and desperation caused by war was everywhere to be seen.

At the same time, I encountered local and foreign people — particularly community leaders and people in the civil society – working tirelessly to give help, hope, succor and life to victims and those in need.

From the beginning of the civil war in November 2020, there were efforts made at the local, regional, continental and global levels to stop the violence and the accompanying losses. There were efforts by different groups at the national level to prevent degeneration into wars. There were similar efforts at bilateral and regional levels. And when the war began, greater efforts were mounted by friends of Ethiopia and Tigray people to bring about cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, the restoration of services, and the search for political solutions to Ethiopia’s conflict.

Refusing to be discouraged, I continued with visits, consultations, and discussions to get face to start talks between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the leadership of Tigray people.

After eight months of intense shuttle diplomacy, including eight visits to Mekelle, Capital of Tigray, and the the Chairperson of AU Commission enlarging my panel with addition of former President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and former Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, we finally succeeded.

A peace agreement was signed by the delegates and representatives of the Ethiopian Federal Government, TPLF and the Tigray people on Nov. 2.

After five days of intense discussions in Nairobi Kenya in November, the military commanders agreed on modalities for the implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement.

Any pessimist can dig holes in the agreement, undermine it and try to prevent it from being implemented. But no agreement between two belligerents for peace will ever be regarded as perfect by all because it must, necessarily, be based on compromise.

We can, however, strive for perfection in the implementation of the agreement in order to achieve the objectives of peace, security, constitutionality, stability, welfare and well-being, development, and progress of all concerned, especially the ordinary people of Ethiopia no matter where they live.

The agreement must be implemented in good faith, on the basis of peace with honor and dignity, constitutionality and stability. Peace deals function on building trust, and that trust has to be nurtured, layered and reinforced from inside and outside.

All leaders of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians with their neighbors, partners and friends must join hands and accept the truth that there is ‘no victor, no vanquished’ if the possibility of peace, common security and shared prosperity, development and progress for all concerned is to be realized.

The peace agreement and its implementation must be owned by the leaders and people of Ethiopia. The panel and the observers are mere facilitators, there to provide a guiding hand if needed.

Olusegun Obasanjo

Kehinde Akinyemi,
Special Assistant on Media
Nov.27, 2022.

Tinubu Hails Obasanjo For Successful Diplomatic Mission In Ethiopia

National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu and former President, Olusegun Obasanjo

 

The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu has commended former President Olusegun Obasanjo for his contribution to a stable Africa.

Obasanjo headed an African Union diplomatic mission which has led to a peace treaty between Ethiopia and Tigray after two years of devastating conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and left millions needing aid.

While reacting to the development in a terse statement on Thursday, Tinubu wished that the process results in the permanent resolution of the conflict.

“I commend the statesmanship of former President Olusegun Obasanjo as he continues his contribution to the stability of the African continent with a successful diplomatic mission in Ethiopia where he led the mediation of an important peace treaty.

“It is hoped that the process results, ultimately, in the permanent resolution of the conflict and a full commitment to the cause of unity, restoration, and development,” the former Lagos State governor said.

READ ALSO: Emirates Airlines Suspends Flights To Nigeria Over Trapped Funds

The surprise deal between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and Tigrayan rebels was unveiled after little over a week of negotiations led by the African Union in South Africa and was hailed by the UN and the US among others.

Announcing the breakthrough almost exactly two years to the day since the war erupted in November 2020, Obasanjo said it is a new dawn.

“Today is the beginning of a new dawn for Ethiopia, for the Horn of Africa, and indeed for Africa as a whole.

“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as the systematic, orderly, smooth, and coordinated disarmament,” Obasanjo said at a briefing in Pretoria.

The ex-Nigerian leader added that they also agreed on a “restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians… among other areas of agreement”.

Ethiopia Ceases Issuance Of Visas On Arrival To Nigerians

 

 

The Ethiopian government has announced that it will cease the issuance of visas on arrival for Nigerians with immediate effect.

This was made known on Tuesday through a memo sent to travel partners by the East African nation, where it indicated that travellers need to obtain their visas from the embassy before entry into the country

“Please, be informed that effective immediately, no more visas on arrival for Nigerian citizens,” it reads in part.

It also revealed that “Passengers having a layover in Addis to travel the next morning to Zanzibar, Seychelles, Lusaka, Lilongwe, Harare, Cape Town, etc., are not affected by the ban and do not need a transit visa for their trips,”

Similarly, it mandated that Nigerians and 42 other nations intending to come to the country show proof of yellow fever vaccination cards at its borders.

Reasons for the adoption of this policy remain unknown

 

UN Ship Arrives In Africa With Grain For Ethiopia

This hand out photo taken and released by the World Food Programme (WFP) on August 30, 2022 in Djibouti shows the MV Brave Commander that reached the port of Djibouti with 30,000 MT wheat grain for the Ethiopia operation. Photo by Claire Nevill / WFP / AFP
This hand out photo taken and released by the World Food Programme (WFP) on August 30, 2022 in Djibouti shows the MV Brave Commander that reached the port of Djibouti with 30,000 MT wheat grain for the Ethiopia operation. Photo by Claire Nevill / WFP / AFP

 

A UN-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat destined for millions of hungry people in Ethiopia docked in neighbouring Djibouti on Tuesday.

The bulk carrier MV Brave Commander arrived in the Horn of Africa port city two weeks after leaving a Black Sea port in Ukraine, the UN’s World Food Programme said.

“The food on the Brave Commander will feed 1.5 million people for one month in Ethiopia,” WFP’s regional director for East Africa, Mike Dunford, said in video footage provided by the agency from the port.

“So this makes a very big impact for those people who currently have nothing. And now WFP will be able to provide them with their basic needs.”

Ethiopia, along with Kenya and Somalia, is in the grip of a devastating drought that has left 22 million people at risk of starvation across the Horn of Africa, the WFP said earlier this month.

The WFP said the wheat from the Brave Commander was being transported to its operations in Ethiopia.

It was not immediately clear whether the delivery would be affected by a resumption of fighting between government forces and Tigrayan rebels in the north of the country.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, was forced to halt almost all deliveries after Russia’s invasion in February, raising fears of a global food crisis.

But exports of grain, food and fertilisers from three Black Sea ports resumed at the start of this month under a deal between Kyiv and Moscow, brokered by the UN and Turkey in July.

The agreement lifted a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports and set terms for millions of tonnes of wheat and other grain to start flowing from silos and ports.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, welcoming the ship’s arrival and Djibouti’s role, said the United States will be “closely monitoring Russia’s adherence” to the deal.

“We call on Russia to immediately cease its war on Ukraine, which would do much to address the recent spike in global food insecurity,” Blinken said in a statement.

According to figures late last week from the Joint Coordination Centre which manages the sea corridor, more than 720,000 tonnes of grain have already left Ukraine.

The WFP said the Djibouti port is one of the main corridors it uses for its operations across Eastern and Central Africa, handling 960,000 tonnes of food commodities in 2021.

‘No end in sight’

The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization warned last week that the situation is set to get even worse with a fifth consecutive failed rainy season.

“There is still no end in sight to this drought crisis, so we must get the resources needed to save lives and stop people plunging into catastrophic levels of hunger and starvation,” WFP executive director David Beasley said earlier this month.

The WFP has warned that famine is a “serious risk,” particularly in Somalia where nearly half the population of 15 million is seriously hungry.

The WFP says food insecurity and malnutrition are a major concern across Ethiopia, with an estimated 20.4 million people in need of food support, including those forced from their homes by the conflict in the north as well as the severe drought in the south and southeast.

Northern Ethiopia has been wracked by war since November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after what he said were attacks by the rebels on federal army camps.

AFP

Fighting Resumes In Northern Ethiopia After Five-Month Break

In this file photo taken on June 20, 2021 Local farmers walk next to a damaged tank that is abandoned along the road in Dansa, southwest of Mekele in Tigray region, Ethiopia.  Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

Fighting erupted between government forces and Tigrayan rebels in northern Ethiopia on Wednesday, shattering a five-month truce and dealing a blow to peace efforts.

Reports of fresh offensives were followed by Ethiopia’s air force announcing it had downed a plane carrying weapons for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the rebels have accused each other of undermining efforts to peacefully resolve the brutal 21-month war in Africa’s second most populous nation, and traded blame over who was responsible for returning to combat.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply shocked” by the renewed fighting and appealed for an “immediate cessation of hostilities and for the resumption of peace talks”.

The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called for a “de-escalation” and the resumption of “talks to seek a peaceful solution”.

The United States urged both sides “to redouble efforts to advance talks to achieve a durable ceasefire”, a US State Department spokesman said.

The TPLF said government forces and their allies had launched a “large scale” offensive towards southern Tigray early Wednesday after a months-long lull in fighting.

But the government accused the TPLF of striking first and violating the ceasefire.

“Ignoring all of the peace alternatives presented by the government, the terrorist group TPLF armed group continued its recent provocations and launched an attack this morning at 5 am (0200 GMT)” around southern Tigray, the Government Communication Service said in a statement.

The rival claims could not be independently verified as access to northern Ethiopia is restricted, but there were reports of fighting around southern Tigray in areas bordering the Amhara and Afar regions.

“They launched the offensive early this morning around 5 am local time. We are defending our positions,” TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda told AFP.

He said on Twitter that the “large-scale” offensive was launched “against our positions in the southern front” by the Ethiopian army and special forces as well as militias from neighbouring Amhara.

‘Violated our airspace’

The air force said Wednesday it had shot down a plane “believed to be a property of historical enemies who want Ethiopia’s weakness”.

“The airplane which violated our airspace from Sudan… and aimed to supply weapons to the terror group was shot down by our heroic air force,” the Ethiopian News Agency quoted armed forces spokesman Major General Tesfaye Ayalew as saying.

The date of the incident, the type of aircraft and how it was downed were not detailed.

The TPLF said it was a “blatant lie”.

The March truce had paused fighting in a war that first began in November 2020, allowing a resumption of some international aid to Tigray after a three-month break.

Both sides in recent weeks had evoked possible peace talks.

But they disagree on who should lead negotiations, and the TPLF also insists basic services must be restored to Tigray’s six million people before dialogue can begin.

Abiy’s government says any talks must be brokered by the African Union’s Horn of Africa envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, who is leading the international push for peace, but the rebels want outgoing Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to mediate.

In a statement dated August 23, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said “two rounds of confidential face-to-face” meetings with top civilian and military officials had taken place, the first acknowledgement by either side of direct talks.

No time or place was given for these talks, which the government has not confirmed.

William Davison, senior Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, urged all parties to cease fighting to avert “a return to full-blown war”.

“This serious breach of the truce agreed earlier this year demonstrates the need for the two parties to arrange unconditional face-to-face negotiations as soon as these hostilities cease,” Davison said in a statement.

‘Enough of this war’

“I was shocked when I heard the news this morning. We had hoped they were ready for peace, but now our hope is gone,” said Addis Ababa resident Teklehaimanot Mezgebu.

“If they start the war, that will not be good for the people of Ethiopia and Tigray.”

The conflict has killed untold numbers, with widespread reports of atrocities including mass killings and sexual violence.

Millions of people need humanitarian assistance in Tigray, the country’s northernmost region, as well as Afar and Amhara.

The UN’s World Food Programme said last week that nearly half the population in Tigray is suffering from a severe lack of food and rates of malnutrition had “skyrocketed”.

Tigray is largely cut off from the rest of Ethiopia, without basic services such as electricity, communications and banking.

Abiy sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 to topple the TPLF after months of tensions with the party that had dominated Ethiopian politics for three decades.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

The TPLF mounted a comeback, recapturing Tigray and expanding into Afar and Amhara, before the war reached a stalemate.

Last Wednesday, an Ethiopian government committee tasked with looking into negotiations called for a formal ceasefire as part of a proposal it planned to submit to the AU.

AFP

Fuel Prices Soar In Ethiopia As Subsidies Cut

The Tigray Region, officially the Tigray National Regional State, is the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia.
The Tigray Region, officially the Tigray National Regional State, is the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia. Google Maps

 

Fuel prices soared in Ethiopia on Wednesday after the government reduced subsidies, adding to economic hardship for people already struggling with high inflation.

The price of petrol at the pump jumped almost 30 percent to 48.83 biir (about 94 US cents) while diesel went up almost 40 percent to 49.02 birr under the new price regime that will run to August 6, the trade ministry said.

The federal government plans to lift fuel subsidies progressively, according to the Addis Tribune business newspaper.

Prices of fuel, food and other basic goods have rocketed globally because of the Ukraine war, badly hitting vulnerable countries in Africa and elsewhere.

The trade ministry said the cost of fuel for Ethiopian consumers should be almost double if it was calculated on current global prices.

“But considering the state the country is in, the government is covering 75 percent of the (price) difference while it was decided that the remaining 25 percent would be transferred to consumers,” it said.

The country of more than 110 million people has seen inflation hovering at around 35 percent over the past six months, with food prices in particular registering a sharp rise.

Ethiopia Beat Salah-Less Egypt In AFCON Qualifier

Egypt were runners at the last AFCON. Photo: CAF

 

Egypt sorely missed injured captain Mohamed Salah as they slumped to a shock 2-0 defeat by Ethiopia on Thursday in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying.  

A strain ruled out the prolific Liverpool scorer after he defied his club last Sunday and played in a victory over Guinea despite not being fully fit.

Egypt lacked several other injured first choices, but were still expected to secure maximum Group D points in neutral Malawi against opponents 108 places lower in the world rankings.

But the quick Ethiopian forwards repeatedly troubled a slow Egyptian defence in the opening half and goals from Dawa Hotessa and captain Shemeles Bekele gave them a two-goal half-time advantage.

Egypt had more possession in the second half on a pitch badly cut up in places due to torrential pre-match rain.

Ethiopia were forced to play in Lilongwe because, like 16 other countries competing in qualifying, they do not have an international-standard stadium.

Coach Ehab Galal has only been in charge of Egypt for two matches after Portuguese Carlos Queiroz could not agree to terms for an extension of his contract.

Galal, who left Cairo club Pyramids to take over the Pharaohs, will now come under intense pressure as a year filled with disappointments for Egypt continues.

They lost the last Cup of Nations final to Senegal on penalties in February and one month later suffered a similar fate against the same team in a play-off to decide who went to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Egypt needed 87 minutes to score the goal that beat Guinea in the opening round of 2023 Cup of Nations qualifying and the loss to Ethiopia left them bottom of the table.

The only consolation for Galal and his squad is that the other teams in the section — Ethiopia, Malawi, and Guinea — have also won and lost so each side has three points.

READ ALSO: [AFCON 2023] Super Eagles Labour To Beat Sierra Leone In Abuja

Naby Keita Winner

Guinea left it late to beat Malawi 1-0 in Conakry with Naby Keita, a Liverpool teammate of Salah, scoring in added time.

Nigeria ended a five-match winless run by coming from behind to beat Sierra Leone 2-1 in a Group A match played behind closed doors in Abuja because of crowd trouble in a World Cup play-off against Ghana.

All the goals came before half-time with Jonathan Morsay nodding the Leone Stars into an early lead, Alex Iwobi levelling and Victor Osimhen scoring what proved the match winner on 41 minutes.

Guinea-Bissau lead Nigeria on goal difference after hammering Sao Tome e Principe 5-1 in the Moroccan city of Agadir with Belgium-based Zinho Gano bagging a brace within eight minutes.

The brilliance of South Africa captain and goalkeeper Ronwen Williams could not prevent Qatar-bound Morocco winning a high-profile Group K clash 2-1 in Rabat.

It was the first match for both teams in a group reduced to three teams by the banning of Zimbabwe over government interference and Ayoub el Kaabi won it with a superb 87th-minute volley.

Fellow World Cup qualifiers Cameroon were also narrow winners, edging plucky minnows Burundi 1-0 in Tanzania though a goal from Karl Toko Ekambi.

Minnows Lesotho exceeded expectations by holding an Ivory Coast side stacked with Europe-based stars 0-0 in cold Soweto.

The Ivorians qualify automatically as 2023 hosts but are competing in Group H to gain competitive match practice.

This leaves rivals the Comoros, Lesotho and Zambia fighting for just one place at the finals and the Zambian Chipolopolo (Copper Bullets) lie second on head-to head records.

Mali scored twice in added time with 10 men to defeat South Sudan 3-1 and build a three-point lead over Congo Brazzaville and the Gambia in Group G.

AFP

Mass Arrests After Anti-Muslim Attack In Ethiopia

Several hundred people have been arrested following a deadly attack on Muslims in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar, a regional official said on Friday.

More than 20 people were killed on Tuesday when heavily-armed “extremist Christians” attacked mourners at the funeral of a Muslim elder and destroyed property belonging to Muslim residents, according to a local Islamic group.

Desalegn Tassew, head of the Amhara region’s peace and security bureau, said 373 suspects had been arrested “in relation to the disturbance that happened in Gondar”, according to a statement cited by the official Amhara Media Corporation.

He also announced a ban on firearms and other weapons until all suspects were arrested.

“We are making legally accountable members of the security forces and leaders who did not assume their responsibility,” he added, without elaborating.

The cemetery where the attack occurred neighbours a mosque and church and has been the subject of an ongoing dispute between Muslims and Orthodox Christians, who are the dominant group in Ethiopia.

Amhara’s regional government said the violence erupted as people clashed over using stones from the area for burial purposes, fighting over whether the materials were being taken from the cemetery or church compound.

In Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Friday, Muslims staged a demonstration over the Gondar violence as they gathered for a mass iftar, the traditional sunset meal breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

“Justice for Amhara victims in Gondar,” they chanted. “We need fair justice.”

Ethiopia Declares ‘Indefinite Humanitarian Truce’

(FILES) Tigrayan rebels agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” on February 25, 2022, a new turning point in the nearly 17-month war in northern Ethiopia following the government’s announcement of an indefinite humanitarian truce a day earlier.
 (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

 

 

Ethiopia’s government on Thursday declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately”, saying it hoped to help hasten the delivery of emergency aid into the Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.

Since war broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, thousands have died, and many more have been forced to flee their homes as the conflict has expanded from Tigray to the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government “is committed to exert maximum effort to facilitate the free flow of emergency humanitarian aid into the Tigray region,” it said in a statement.

“To optimise the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring regions,” it said.

“The government of Ethiopia hopes that this truce will substantially improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in the northern Ethiopia without further bloodshed.”

The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party, saying the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

Fighting has dragged on for over a year, triggering a humanitarian crisis, as accounts have emerged of mass rapes and massacres, with both sides accused of human rights violations.

More than 400,000 people have been displaced in Tigray, according to the UN.

The region has also been subject to what the UN says is a de facto blockade.

The United States has accused Abiy’s government of preventing aid from reaching those in need, while the authorities in turn have blamed the rebels for the obstruction.

Nearly 40 percent of the people in Tigray, a region of six million people, face “an extreme lack of food”, the UN said in January, with fuel shortages forcing aid workers to deliver medicines and other crucial supplies by foot.

There was no immediate reaction from the TPLF to the government’s announcement.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 22, 2020 A damaged tank stands abandoned on a road near Humera, Ethiopia.  (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

 

– ‘Welcome news’ –
Western nations have been urging both sides to agree to a ceasefire, with the United States, the UK and Canada hailing the truce declaration.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “urges all parties to build on this announcement to advance a negotiated and sustainable ceasefire, including necessary security arrangements.”

Diplomats led by Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, have been trying for months to broker peace talks, with little evident progress so far.

Analysts said the truce was an important step but urged the government to follow up the announcement with action and ease humanitarian access to Tigray.

“The unconditional and unrestricted delivery of aid could also help create enough trust to pave the way for ceasefire talks and, eventually, dialogue,” said William Davison, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Ethiopia.

 

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 28, 2021 People celebrate the arrival of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters on a street in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia.  (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

 

– ‘Ground to a halt’ –
More than nine million people need food aid across Afar, Amhara and Tigray, according to the UN’s World Food Programme.

But humanitarian organisations have been forced to increasingly curtail activities because of fuel and supply shortages.

“WFP operations in the Tigray region have ground to a halt, with only emergency fuel stocks and less than one percent of the required food stocks remaining,” the agency said this week.

A TPLF push into Afar has worsened the situation, driving up the need for emergency aid in the region.

The road from Afar’s capital, Semera, to Tigray’s capital Mekele is the only operational land route into Tigray, where the UN estimates hundreds of thousands are living in famine-like conditions.

The government previously declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in Tigray in June last year, after the TPLF mounted a shock comeback and retook the region from federal forces.

But fighting intensified in the second half of 2021, with the rebels at one point claiming to be within 200 kilometres (125 miles) of the capital Addis Ababa, before reaching a stalemate.

Ethiopia Declares ‘Indefinite Humanitarian Truce’

In this file photo taken on February 26, 2021 A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 26, 2021 A damaged tank stands on a road north of Mekele, the capital of Tigray. EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

Ethiopia’s government on Thursday declared “an indefinite humanitarian truce effective immediately”, saying it hoped to help hasten delivery of emergency aid into the Tigray region, where hundreds of thousands face starvation.

Since war broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020, thousands have died, and many more have been forced to flee their homes as the conflict has expanded from Tigray to the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government “is committed to exert maximum effort to facilitate the free flow of emergency humanitarian aid into the Tigray region,” it said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Burkina Attacks Kill 24 Troops

“To optimise the success of the humanitarian truce, the government calls upon the insurgents in Tigray to desist from all acts of further aggression and withdraw from areas they have occupied in neighbouring regions,” it said.

“The government of Ethiopia hopes that this truce will substantially improve the humanitarian situation on the ground and pave the way for the resolution of the conflict in the northern Ethiopia without further bloodshed.”

The conflict erupted when Abiy sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s former ruling party, saying the move came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

Fighting has dragged on for over a year, triggering a humanitarian crisis, as accounts have emerged of mass rapes and massacres, with both sides accused of human rights violations.

Tigray itself has been subject to what the UN says is a de-facto blockade.

The United States has accused Abiy’s government of preventing aid from reaching those in need, while the authorities in turn have blamed the rebels for the obstruction.

Nearly 40 percent of the people in Tigray, a region of six million people, face “an extreme lack of food”, the UN said in January.

Meanwhile, humanitarian organisations have been forced to increasingly curtail their activities because of fuel and supply shortages.

The government previously declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in Tigray in June last year, after the TPLF retook the region from federal forces. But fighting intensified in the second half of 2021 before reaching a stalemate.

AFP

Ethiopia Starts Electricity Production At Nile Mega-Dam

This general view shows the site of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Guba, Ethiopia, on February 19, 2022. Ethiopia’s massive hydro-electric dam project on a tributary of the Nile has raised regional tensions notably with Egypt, which depends on the huge river for 97 per cent of its water supply. Government officials said the dam would begin producing electricity on Sunday, more than a decade since work first started. Amanuel SILESHI / AFP

 

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed inaugurated electricity production from the country’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Sunday, a milestone in the controversial multi-billion dollar project.

Abiy, accompanied by high-ranking officials, toured the power generation station and pressed a series of buttons on an electronic screen, a move that officials said initiated production.

“This great dam was built by Ethiopians but not only for Ethiopians, rather for all our African brothers and sisters to benefit from,” an official presiding at the launch ceremony said.

“The day every Ethiopian has sacrificed for, hoped and prayed for, is finally here.”

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The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa but has been at the centre of a regional dispute ever since work first began in 2011.

Ethiopia’s downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan view it as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters, while Addis Ababa deems it essential for its electrification and development.

The $4.2-billion (3.7-billion-euro) project is ultimately expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s electricity output.

State media reported that the dam had started generating 375 megawatts of electricity from one of its turbines on Sunday.

– Project delays –
The 145-metre (475-foot) high dam lies on Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, not far from the border with Sudan.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 percent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding, but fears its own dams could be harmed without agreement on the GERD’s operation.

Both countries have been pushing Ethiopia for a binding deal over the filling and operation of the massive damn, but talks under the auspices of the African Union (AU) have failed to reach a breakthrough.

The dam was initiated under former prime minister Meles Zenawi, the Tigrayan leader who ruled Ethiopia for more than two decades until his death in 2012.

Civil servants contributed one month’s salary towards the project in the year of the project launch, and the government has since issued dam bonds targeting Ethiopians at home and abroad.

But officials on Sunday credited Abiy with reviving the dam after what they claim was mismanagement delayed its progress.

“Our country has lost so much because the dam was delayed, especially financially,” project manager Kifle Horo said in his remarks.

Those in attendance at Sunday’s ceremony included First Lady Zinash Tayachew, the heads of the lower house of parliament and the Supreme Court, regional presidents and government ministers.

The process of filling the GERD’s vast reservoir began in 2020, with Ethiopia announcing in July of that year it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres.

The reservoir’s total capacity is 74 billion cubic metres, and the target for 2021 was to add 13.5 billion.

Last July Ethiopia said it had hit that target, meaning there was enough water to begin producing energy, although some experts had cast doubt on the claims.

Ethiopia To Start Generating Power From Nile Dam

In this file photo taken on December 26, 2019, a general view of the Blue Nile river as it passes through the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), is seen near Guba in Ethiopia. Ethiopia will start generating power from its mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Sunday. PHOTO: EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP

 

Ethiopia will start generating power from its mega-dam on the Blue Nile on Sunday, government officials told AFP, a major milestone for the controversial project.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), set to be the largest hydroelectric scheme in Africa, has been at the centre of a regional dispute ever since Ethiopia broke ground there in 2011.

“Tomorrow will be the first energy generation of the dam,” an Ethiopian government official said on Saturday.

A second official confirmed the information. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because the development has not been officially announced.

Ethiopia’s downstream neighbours Egypt and Sudan view the dam as a threat because of their dependence on Nile waters, while Addis Ababa deems it essential for its electrification and development.

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There was no immediate response from Cairo or Khartoum, which have been pressing Ethiopia to sign a binding agreement on the filling and operation of the dam ever since work first started.

The three governments have held multiple rounds of talks. but so far there has been no sign of any breakthrough.

The $4.2-billion (3.7-billion-euro) project is ultimately expected to produce more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling Ethiopia’s electricity output.

Ethiopia had initially planned an output of around 6,500 megawatts but later reduced its target.

“The newly generated electricity from the GERD could help revive an economy that has been devastated by the combined forces of a deadly war, rising fuel prices and the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Addisu Lashitew of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

 

– Failed talks –

The 145-metre (475-foot) high dam lies on Blue Nile River in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, not far from the border with Sudan.

Egypt, which depends on the Nile for about 97 per cent of its irrigation and drinking water, sees the dam as an existential threat.

Sudan hopes the project will regulate annual flooding but fears its own dams could be harmed without agreement on the GERD’s operation.

Talks sponsored by the African Union (AU) have failed to yield a three-way agreement on the dam’s filling and operations, and Cairo and Khartoum have demanded Addis Ababa cease filling the massive reservoir until such a deal is reached.

But Ethiopian officials have argued that filling is a natural part of the dam’s construction process and cannot be stopped.

The UN Security Council met last July to discuss the project, although Ethiopia later slammed the session as an “unhelpful” distraction from the AU-led process.

In September the Security Council adopted a statement encouraging Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to resume negotiations under AU auspices.

Egypt claims a historic right to the Nile dating from a 1929 treaty that gave it veto power over construction projects along the river.

A 1959 treaty boosted Egypt’s allocation to around 66 per cent of the river’s flow, with 22 per cent for Sudan.

Yet Ethiopia was not a party to those treaties and does not see them as valid.

The process of filling the GERD’s vast reservoir began in 2020, with Ethiopia announcing in July of that year it had hit its target of 4.9 billion cubic metres.

The reservoir’s total capacity is 74 billion cubic metres, and the target for 2021 was to add 13.5 million.

Last July Ethiopia said it had hit that target, meaning there was enough water to begin producing energy, although some experts had cast doubt on the claims.

AFP