Beyond Cessation of Hostilities: Sustaining Peace

Scorecard of the Implementation of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities (CoHA)

Originally Published at: Addis Standard

1. On February 9, 2024, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE), the recently formed Tigray Interim Regional Administration (TIRA) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) convened a joint meeting. Its purpose was to discuss the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) signed by GoE, TPLF and AU mediators on November 2, 2021, in Pretoria, South Africa. 

2. This latest meeting, understood to be the ‘political discussion’ mentioned in the CoHA text, is a step towards effective implementation of the CoHA. Unlike past informal talks, these discussions were publicized in state media. It is nevertheless unclear whether or not the meeting followed established processes, which normally would include a formal agenda and a matrix for the implementation of any decisions on the outstanding tasks in CoHA; because any conclusions that may have been reached remain undisclosed. 

3. Regardless of the meeting and its outcomes, public statements from various elements of the GoE, as well as from TIRA and TPLF, point to simmering tensions over critical provisions of the CoHA. A lack of transparency, exemplified by the absence of an official, comprehensive joint report on the results of the discussions, is worrying in that it encourages conjecture, promotes propagation of falsehood, and potentially deepens distrust. 

4. Rather than offering a comprehensive review and assessment, the aim of this piece is to take stock of successes and failures in the implementation of CoHA and to identify key unaccomplished tasks, obligations, and further hurdles. In particular, these are the removal of Amhara and Eritrean forces from Tigray; the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and repatriation of refugees; the provision of justice and accountability for atrocities committed during the conflict; and disarmament, demobilization and resettlement (DDR) of combatants. The CoHA has yet to accomplish these four primary tasks.

5. The optimism at first engendered by CoHA was soon tempered by evident slow progress in its implementation. Granted the silencing of the guns and the post-Pretoria establishment of TIRA, a lack of political will continues to hamper CoHA’s implementation. Consequently, although CoHA brought about negative peace (that is, ended overt warfare), positive peace (the realization of attitudes, institutions and structure that create and sustain peaceful societies) remains to be achieved. This can be done only by accomplishing the remaining tasks under CoHA, addressing the root causes of the war, investigating atrocities, ensuring justice and accountability and fostering reconciliation. 

6. What progress has been made in the implementation of CoHA is mainly due to compliance by the Tigray side (for instance, agreeing to the restoration of federal authority in Tigray through the deployment of federal army and enforcement bodies). The Federal government’s failure to comply with critical obligations, such as restoring its occupied territories to Tigray and returning IDPs, indicates a serious lack of progress. Equally notable has been GoE’s reluctance to hold accountable those responsible for wartime atrocities. 

7. A lack of significant progress in executing the CoHA, taken with continuing challenges in its implementation, can be disagreement on whether or not any particular obligation laid down in the CoHA is a shared priority that receives political support from both parties to the agreement. 

8. Obligations that have been identified as commonly shared priorities, such as silencing the guns and the formation of TIRA, have fared better than others. In particular the return of Tigrayan territory and of IDPs, although prioritized by the Tigray side, have been impeded primarily by the GoE but have also faced significant opposition from the Eritrea and Amhara side. In further contrast, other obligations that garnered limited political will – primarily the accountability for atrocities – have not materialized, despite demands from victims of criminality and from the Tigrayan population at large.

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