By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 23, 2022 (NAIROBI) – Ethiopian and Tigray regional officials agreed late on Thursday to grant the African Union full access to the war-ravaged region in the northern part of the country to oversee an end to the two-year conflict.
At a press briefing in Nairobi, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also part of the mediating team, said the two parties have agreed to establish a joint monitoring team to verify the implementation of the peace agreement signed on 2 November in South Africa.
“They have all concurred and agreed to give the monitoring and verification team of the African Union full access, full 360-degree viewpoint to ensure all the elements of the agreements are actually going to be implemented,” Kenyatta said.
Kenyatta said his team and African Union representatives will travel to Tigray’s capital to verify the progress of the peace agreement.
“They have been negotiating for the last two days but we agreed that the true statement that they need to make would be the statement they make when we are in Mekelle in the next few days observing and verifying the actions because documents are one thing, what we want now is the deliverables and this is why we are heading to Mekele,” Kenyatta said.
He didn’t say when they will travel but confirmed it would take place in the coming few days before the end of the year.
Professor Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha, an expert in diplomacy and international relations, said the African Union must play a decisive role in resolving conflicts in the continent.
“The problem with the African Union is that sometimes the resolutions and determination of this nature have not been followed with tangible results in the field,” Chacha said.
“But we are hoping this time round the warring parties will be able to appreciate the fact that they need very urgently to have a solution to the problems.”
Chacha said the Kenyatta team’s visit would help resolve the outstanding issues in the peace deal.
“The actions of visiting will give them firsthand information and knowledge about the situation on the ground and when the situation on the ground is clearly understood, then the parties concerned, including the mediators, can understand and appreciate the way they will approach the resolution in order for them to create an atmosphere that can bring about peace,” Chacha said.
Mr Workneh Gebeyehu, Executive Secretary of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in a tweet applaud the parties to the Ethiopia Cessation of Hostilities Agreement for finalizing the terms of the monitoring, verification and compliance mechanism.
He said the new agreement was “a clear testament of their commitment to honour the letter and spirit of the Agreement towards lasting peace”.
Since the peace accord was signed last month, some of its provisions, such as access to humanitarian aid and the restoration of banking, electricity and telecommunications services have partially been implemented.
The resumption of basic services and the reopening of the humanitarian corridor has brought some relief to the estimated seven million suffering population in the Tigray region which borders Eritrea.
However, not much of the agreement has been implemented and the situation is still volatile.
Recently, Tigray authorities said they have removed 60% of their forces from the frontlines.
The Ethiopian government also has not yet removed its forces from the frontlines nor did it manage to withdraw the Eritrean forces who reportedly continue to commit large-scale atrocities including sexual assaults and summary executions inside the Tigray region.
Last week, Tigray authorities said that the security arrangement is not being honoured and hence there is no move towards disarmament of Tigray forces.
They further accused the Eritrean government of trying to obstruct the peace process and urged the Abiy government to comply with the terms of the peace accord in withdrawing the foreign and non-federal forces.
The war between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray forces broke out in November 2020 and has claimed the lives of over half a million people.