TYN Statement – Joint Statement on The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) 24/11/2022

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Joint Statement on The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)

 

The recent peace agreement of Cessation of Hostilities signed between the Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF on November 2, 2022, and the further signing of its implementation on November 12, 2022,  was a much-awaited and largely advocated-for peace agreement by all Tigrayan advocates and friends of Tigray alike. Stability in the region and the necessity for the People of Tigray to be able to retain their fundamental human rights and the rights to a just and representative democratic process have been the main points of advocacy for the Tigray Youth Network. The following section discusses our main concerns on the signed peace agreement.

  1. Lack of due regard to the pressing humanitarian need in Tigray

The Tigrayan community strongly condemns the use of access to humanitarian relief given to the people of Tigray being politicized and used as a tool of political negotiations. The expedition of Humanitarian aid to Tigray, a region declared under phase 4 and phase 5 of the classification of Acute Food Insecurity by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), has been used as a bargaining chip rather than the basic rights of all civilians. Basic rights to food and medical access should not in any manner, be conditional to any terms, and it is regrettable to see this ignored by the negotiators. The expedition of the humanitarian relief, in contrast to the timeframe placed on the Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration of the Tigrayan forces, is lacking when it comes to the matter of delivery or implementation. The resumption of basic facilities, including banking, electricity, and telecom services, must not be contingent on the disarmament of the Tigrayan forces.

  1. Disarmament of Tigray Defence Forces

The Tigray Defence Forces have been the sole entity that has been able to safeguard civilians in Tigray and provide protection from hostile forces who continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. The decision to disarm these forces without the guaranteed safety of these civilians in Tigray is not only unconstitutional but also a direct contradiction of The Geneva Conventions on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), a force accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region of Tigray, has now been given legitimacy to protect the victim community. The ENDF does not have the confidence and trust of the Tigrayan society to protect and uphold the rights of civilians. This utter disregard for the victim’s protection, especially women who suffered sexual gender-based violence, and enabling re-traumatization of a population that experienced rampant arbitrary arrests and executions by granting the abusers free access to control Tigray is unethical and cannot be presented as a mechanism of achieving lasting peace.

Furthermore, the absence of provisions that put similar requirements to other actors who have been accused of and continue to commit heinous crimes in Tigray, specifically the Amhara forces, shows the lack of complete understanding of the scale and complexity of the war. The Amhara special forces, local militia, and illegally armed Fano forces are involved in widespread gang rapes, ethnic cleansing, arbitrary detention,  summary killings, vandalism, and destruction of private and public properties all over Tigray, as per various reports from independent Human Rights organizations. Post the signing of the Peace agreement between the government of Ethiopia and the TPLF, These forces continue to remain and conduct more crimes alongside the Eritrean troops in the regions of Shire, Axum, and Adwa.

  1. Failure to address Eritrean forces

It has also been lucid that the peace agreement has failed to address the internationalization of the war in Tigray with the direct involvement of Eritrean forces, who have committed unspeakable atrocities against civilians in Tigray. There is a valid concern amongst Tigrayans across the globe that the inability of the peace deal to address Eritrea as a third-party actor, creates room for failure of reinforcement right from its establishment. The gap in addressing all entities who have been a part of the conflict allows the security of civilians to be compromised and gives way to the resumption of the war, which will likely jeopardize the steps taken to achieve tangible peace.

The Eritrean army remains in the region of Tigray after the signing of the peace deal, and they continue to occupy Tigrayan towns. They have been engaged in systematic looting and destruction of property. After the signing of the Peace Agreement, these forces continued to pillage, rape, and conduct mass killings of Tigrayan civilians with a special intent to destroy the agriculture required for the survival of an already starving population. The peace agreement fails to significantly mention the state of Eritrea as an aggressor in the war and lacks mechanisms that will be enforced in the scenario of the disregard by the Eritrean government of requests to leave the Ethiopian state. It has also failed to directly address the monitoring of the required instruction by the Ethiopian government to ask for the exit of all third-party actors.

  1. Limitation of the sequencing

Article 10 (4) of the Peace Agreement, suggests that the opportunistic displacement & ethnic cleansing of Tigrayans, conducted by the Amhara administration to assert control over constitutionally Tigrayan land, would be a dispute to be settled by the Ethiopian constitution. The forceful land grabbing as an act being unconstitutional, and the crimes committed to secure the land being against International Humanitarian law, the negotiators failed to address the need of the internally displaced in the Tigray region to be returned to their homes, in accordance to both the constitution and International Humanitarian law. The application of the FDRE constitution to resolve land-related claims fails to capture the post-war changes in the demographic structure and the disrupted livelihood of the Tigrayans. The application of the constitution of Ethiopia should only come to the table after those who have been forcefully and illegally evicted from their rightful lands are reinstated to their pre-war habitat. Only then would leaders of the two regions hold a sound discussion and devise a viable solution in consultation with the residents. We strongly believe that the negotiations, without paying due attention to the millions of people displaced from their rightfully owned lands, propose a constitutional solution that jeopardizes their inherent constitutional rights.

  1. Inadequate options for justice

Ethnic Tigrayans have been victims of all rounded attacks constituting various forms of international war crimes, confirmed by various international bodies. Among others, the recently released preliminary report by the ICHREE declared that it had found reasonable ground to believe that the Human Rights violations committed by state entities and their allies amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. There is ample empirical evidence in several forms that could unmistakably prove that genocide has been declared on the people of Tigray, with extensive proof to support the intent to commit genocide right from the genesis of the war. The negotiators, with full knowledge of this fact, offered local remedies that could exonerate the perpetrators of these outrageous crimes. This further undermines the suffering of the people of Tigray and the inherent right to receive justice.

Taking the available resources to weigh the gravity of the crimes by the Government of Ethiopia and its allies, it is reasonably unjust for the justice process to be entrusted to the same regime accused of committing genocide. From the beginning of the war, Ethiopia’s government has been denying, misconstruing, and deceiving the international community about substantial elements of the war, the majority of which have had detrimental consequences on the lives of civilians in Tigray. Regardless of this fact, the agreement assigns the Ethiopian government to implement a national transitional justice. The proposed solution unfairly assumes ethnic Tigrayans, who have been designated as enemies on multiple occasions by the government of Ethiopia, would likely receive justice at the hands of their abusers. The rights of Tigrayan civilians must be protected under customary international humanitarian law, the war in Ethiopia has obtained the involvement of external actors such as Eritrea and military support from states such as Turkey, UAE, and Iran and thus should be viewed under the spectacles of an international conflict.

We denounce Article 10 of the agreement with keen interest and commitment to hold the war criminals accountable for their actions at a fair tribunal trusted by the victims. The Tigrayans are committed to ensuring that their case will be entertained before the International Criminal court that has the jurisdiction to handle the extent of international war crimes and crimes against humanity inflicted upon their population.

 

  1. Inadequate Representation

The matter of representation has been completely disregarded in the agreement signed between the Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF. The war in Tigray has affected and deteriorated the Tigrayan society as a whole. Many Civil Societies, grassroot organizations, and institutions that have been working on addressing the Humanitarian need and seeking justice for the Tigrayan people have been largely ignored and sidelined in the agreement. We strongly believe professionals and community leaders who have the mandate to represent the victim community in Tigray, should have been consulted in any agreement upon the delivery and implementation mechanisms of Humanitarian relief and transitional justice. The matters of transitional justice and humanitarian requirements and how to monitor their delivery and implementation have to be depoliticized and represented through civil societies and grassroots representation rather than any political entity. Additionally, the negotiators in Pretoria also failed to accommodate the participation of women in the peace negotiations even though, ironically, a large aspect of the transitional justice must address the excessive scale of crimes committed that targeted women within the Tigrayan society.

The Tigrayan community would like to emphasize its support for a peaceful resolution to the war in the Tigray region. However, we would like to firmly state that matters of Humanitarian relief and Transitional Justice and the mechanisms to implement them can only be achieved through the mechanisms that present security and confidence in the victim community. Tigrayans, therefore, must be represented by various civil societies and organizations that are experts in these fields and must be consulted on the monitoring and implementation of mechanisms. We reject any form of the politicisation of the integral right to life, security, and justice of the people of Tigray.

 

Signatories:

 

  1. Tigray Youth Network
  2. OMNA Tigray
  3. Legacy Tigray
  4. Tigray Women’s Association in Sweden
  5. Rescue Tigrayan Rape Victims
  6. Tigray Human Rights Forum
  7. United Tegaru Canada
  8. Irob Anina Civil Society
  9. Security and Justice for Tigrayans