News: Ethiopia’s defense minister unveils strategy for Western Tigray crisis resolution amidst political disputes

Abraham Belay (PhD) Defense Minister (Photo: Abreham Belay/Facebook

The Minister of Defense, Abraham Belay, has announced the Ethiopian government’s plans to tackle the issue prevailing in western Tigray, which is currently under the control of Amhara forces.

The strategy delineates prioritizing the secure repatriation of displaced individuals to their residences as the foremost objective, accompanied by subsequent measures aimed at resolving the situation.

In an interview with the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, Abraham conveyed that “federal forces will retain control over these areas to facilitate the repatriation process and to enable residents to conduct local elections upon their return.”

According to him, this step aims to “pave the way for a referendum, intended to definitively settle the territorial dispute.”

Emphasizing a peaceful resolution, the Minister of Defense highlighted ongoing discussions with stakeholders and collaboration with regional authorities to ensure the safe return of displaced persons. 

Recognizing the delayed return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes, Abraham stated that the government intends to institute “a temporary administrative structure in the western Tigray areas, supported by direct budget allocation and local empowerment, until the referendum takes place.”

Furthermore, he disclosed that a joint committee has been formed to explore alternative solutions to the problem, fostering collaboration and seeking common ground. 

The federal government and the Tigray interim administration have been in disagreement over the progress and implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) signed in November 2022.

Particularly in recent weeks, the interim administration of Tigray has emphasized that the lack of effective implementation has led to adverse circumstances for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and residents in areas under the control of Amhara and Eritrean forces.

On 09 February, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his cabinet members convened with a delegation led by Getachew Reda, President of the Interim Administration of Tigray, along with senior officials of the TPLF with the aim of evaluating the progress made in implementing the Pretoria Peace Agreement.

During a subsequent media briefing, Getachew Reda, President of the Tigray Interim Administration, expressed that the ongoing demographic changes in western Tigray, coupled with the continuous displacement of its inhabitants, render the feasibility of conducting a referendum untenable.

This stance stands in stark contrast to the federal government’s position, which sees a referendum as a solution to the unresolved status of Western and Southern Tigray.

Last week, the interim administration also announced its decision regarding dialogue on the implementation of the Pretoria Peace Agreement, stating that ‘forthcoming discussions will be exclusively conducted through the African Union Panel,’ thus distancing itself from direct bilateral engagements with the federal government.”

Abraham also discussed the situation in areas of the Tigray region presently under the control of Eritrean forces.

He indicated that a specialized committee will strive to find a solution aligned with the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA). AS

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