What Ethiopia and Tigray need for peace talks to succeed

On August 24, 2022, the wheels fell off an uneasy nine-month truce between the Ethiopian and Tigrayan governments, with an enormous military assault across dozens of fronts in Tigray.

The informal cessation of hostilities had been reached following the withdrawal of Tigrayan forces from the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions in December 2021. In the ensuing period, both parties called for mediation to end the war, as the humanitarian situation in northern Ethiopia deteriorated.

Mediation efforts by the United States to revive the ceasefire in early September failed. The deadly war on Tigray – which has killed more than half a million people, left more than 5.6 million Tigrayans starving and displaced another two million – has flared up again. In some ways, the signs have been ominous for a while: The government in Addis Ababa had, at the start of August, refused to lift the siege on Tigray and had criticised a joint visit by envoys of the United Nations, US, and European Union to the region’s capital Mekelle.

Still, a new window of opportunity for peace has emerged — if the parties to the conflict and bodies like the UN, which is currently meeting in New York, can utilise it urgently.

On September 11, 2022 – the Ethiopian New Year – the government of Tigray expressed its readiness to resume negotiations brokered by the African Union, effectively putting the ball in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s court. Now, proactive mediation is needed to stop the entire region from being sucked into a greater abyss, save tens of thousands of lives and alleviate the suffering of millions.

Negotiations between the governments of Ethiopia and Tigray will determine the future of both the region and the country. In the Horn of Africa, 66 million people are already affected by drought. The stakes for the international community are very high. What then can be done to revive the truce and build a permanent ceasefire? What needs to be done to ensure successful mediation?

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