Over a Year of Broken Promises: The Pretoria Agreement's Enduring Failure to Deliver Peace in Tigray
By Batseba Seifu
Tigrai Online 1/24/2024
Over a year after the signing of the Pretoria Agreement, hopes for a lasting peace in Tigray have dimmed, replaced by a disheartening reality of unfulfilled promises and persistent suffering. The agreement, brokered under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and signed by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government, held out the promise of a return to normalcy and a brighter future for the region even with its shortcomings. Yet, over a year later, the agreement remains largely unimplemented, with key provisions ignored or undermined, leaving Tigrayans in a state of despair and the prospects for peace in tatters.
The Pretoria Agreement was crafted on the pillars of unfettered humanitarian access, the restoration of constitutional order, and respect for human rights. Although there are inbuilt challenges in the agreement, these tenets were designed to provide a foundation for rebuilding Tigray and fostering reconciliation between the TPLF and the Ethiopian government. However, these fundamental principles have been consistently undermined by the Ethiopian government's actions and inactions.
A Humanitarian Crisis Denied:
One of the most egregious violations of the Pretoria Agreement has been the Ethiopian government's denial of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Tigray. The agreement explicitly called for unfettered humanitarian access to all in need, recognizing the critical role of aid in alleviating the suffering of the Tigrayan people. Yet, parts of Tigray under forceful and illegal occupation do not have access to humanitarian aid. Further, the Agreement requires the Federal Government to expedite the provision of humanitarian aid. Yet, the Federal Government is in denial that a humanitarian crisis, famine, is taking place in Tigray. It is even threatening any one who says there is famine. In addition, it is giving wrong information to international aid organizations undermining the crisis and derailing efforts for humanitarian assistance. This obstruction has exacerbated the humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray, with malnutrition rates skyrocketing and famine looming.
Humanitarian Aid Misused and Diverted:
Even when humanitarian aid has managed to reach Tigray, it has often been subject to misuse and diversion. Reports have emerged of aid being stolen, sold on the black market, or diverted for non-humanitarian purposes. Not long ago, humanitarian aid was stolen wrongfully leading to the stopping of aid by USAID and WFP. These actions are not only a violation of the Pretoria Agreement but also a betrayal of the desperate Tigrayans who rely on aid for survival.
Constitutional Order and Representation Denied:
The Pretoria Agreement explicitly committed to restoring constitutional order in Tigray, including the reinstatement of the region's rightful boundaries and the reestablishment of Tigrayan representation at all levels of governance. The political representation includes within federal institutions, House of Federation, and House of People's Representatives. However, neither constitutional borders nor political representation of the Tigray region is currently in place; over a year later, this critical step remains unfulfilled. Amhara forces continue to forcefully and unconstitutionally occupy Tigrayan lands. Tigrayans continue to be denied their rightful political voice and representation, perpetuating a sense of marginalization and fuelling resentment towards the Ethiopian government.
Human Rights Abuse and Impunity:
The Pretoria Agreement also vowed to respect the human rights of Tigrayan citizens, a promise that has been repeatedly broken. The Ethiopian government has continued to engage in human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests. The recent arrests of artists raising funds for Tigray's famine relief efforts in Addis Ababa are a chilling example of this ongoing violation. Citizens also remain unlawfully detained. Further, in areas that are forcefully and unconstitutionally occupied by Eritrean and Amhara forces, women and girls still face sexual and gender based violence with no word from the federal government violating key provisions of the agreement to condemn such acts.
Eritrean Forces and Prolonged Conflict:
Another major violation of the Pretoria Agreement is the continued presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray. Under the agreement, the ENDF was meant to safeguard the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and security of the country from foreign incursion and ensure that there will be no provocation or incursion from either side of the border. Yet, Eritrean troops remain entrenched, perpetuating the conflict and posing a significant threat to Tigrayans' safety. The presence of these foreign troops undermines the prospects for lasting peace and reconciliation.
The International Community's Inaction:
Despite the Ethiopian government's blatant disregard for the Pretoria Agreement, the international community has largely failed to hold it accountable. While there have been expressions of concern from international organizations, these concerns have not been translated into meaningful action. The international community's inaction has emboldened the Ethiopian government, allowing it to further violate the agreement and perpetuate the suffering of Tigrayans.
A Call for Urgent Action:
The situation in Tigray demands a concerted international effort to avert further tragedy. The international community must exert its influence to compel the Ethiopian government to fulfil its commitments under the Pretoria Agreement, including guaranteeing unhindered humanitarian access, upholding human rights, and respecting constitutional order.
Averting Further Tragedy:
Pressure must be brought to bear on the Ethiopian government to comply with the Pretoria Agreement and facilitate genuine dialogue between the parties. International mediation efforts must be strengthened, involving the AU, regional powers, and relevant UN agencies. The international community must also provide the necessary resources to address the humanitarian crisis, ensuring the delivery of life-saving aid to the millions of Tigrayans who desperately need it.
The Fate of Tigray Hangs in the Balance:
The fate of Tigray hangs in the balance. The international community cannot standby and watch as a people are denied their basic rights and suffer in a protracted conflict. It must act decisively to hold the Ethiopian government accountable and ensure that the Pretoria Agreement's promises are finally realized. Only then can Tigrayans begin to rebuild their lives and emerge from the darkness of over a year of unfulfilled promises.
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PJTI calls for International Conference on Peace Building, and Justice in post-war Tigray organized by Peace and Justice for Tigreans International on January 27, 2024 all are invited
We sincerely hope that you will be able to grace our conference with your presence and share your insights on these critical matters.