EritreaEthiopiaOp/EdTigray Interim Administration

Op-ed: Tigray’s strategic dilemma in midst of unraveling polycrisis in the Horn and US policy shift toward Eritrea: Scenarios for transitional admin.

Getachew Reda (c), President of Tigray Interim Regional Administration. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)(REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya)

By Mehari Taddele Maru @DrMehari

Addis Abeba – On 1 December 2023, over a year after the signing of the Agreement for Lasting Peace through the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities (the Pretoria Agreement) in Pretoria, South Africa, the African Union (AU) convened the Third Joint Committee Meeting of the Monitoring, Verification, and Compliance Mechanism (MVCM) of the Ethiopian peace process. According to the AU press release, the meeting was attended by representatives of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (GoE), the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and the AU High-Level Panel. It is worth mentioning that the Tigray Interim Regional Administration (TIRA) took part in the meeting, but their involvement was not mentioned in the press release. The aim of the meeting was to “reflect on progress, challenges, and opportunities in the implementation of the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, signed on 02 November 2022”. The meeting further “agreed to convene a strategic reflection session involving the AU High-Level Panel in Ethiopia at the earliest possible time but not later than two months”.

Optimal timing for strategic reflection

This meeting and the suggested “strategic reflection session” come at a time when Tigray, in particular; Ethiopia; and the Horn of Africa in general, face a polycrisis of four mutually reinforcing man-made disasters, namely a) the spectre of a devastating famine which is a deliberate consequence of wars and the use of food aid as a weapon of war; b) the ongoing civil wars and internal political crises; c) mounting deployment of armed forces and mobilization of public support causing concerns over preparations for a likely war between Ethiopia and Eritrea; and d) a war economy in free fall with increasing threats of international loan defaults.

The escalating death toll from the famine poses a direct threat to stability in Tigray by aggravating existing political tensions, potentially leading to unrest or conflict

A failed rainy season due to climate change has caused drought, but the famine is primarily a result of the genocidal war that has destroyed community assets. The international community’s decision to suspend aid distribution, a measure taken in response to aid diversion by federal and local authorities, have also significantly contributed to the reported toll. Furthermore, the transition of 2018 led to a divestment – both financial and political – from the previously effective famine warning system and response policy, resulting in preventable deaths. Historically, a government’s timely response, or lack thereof, to famine often serves as a barometer of its concern and accountability for its people, its willingness and capacity to respond to calamity and, ultimately, its legitimacy to rule. The repercussions of a poorly managed response to famine go beyond eroding public trust. The escalating death toll from the famine poses a direct threat to stability in Tigray by aggravating existing political tensions, potentially leading to unrest or conflict and thereby further destabilizing Tigray and the region.

To maintain stability and facilitate the transition to a permanent governance structure, it is crucial for the TIRA to address the famine ravaging the people of the region. This effort will not only fulfill the humanitarian obligations of TIRA and the international community but will also help TIRA gain and maintain public trust. It necessitates prompt and effective action on the ground, including the efficient use of every penny and minute towards saving the lives of the hungry. Most importantly, it requires an acknowledgment of failure and a call for urgent international action, in stark contrast to the central government’s current policy of denial.

Ethiopia’s famine toll is also directly attributed to fatalities in a genocidal war. Ethiopia’s and Eritrea’s war on Tigray, and the ongoing armed conflicts in Amhara and Oromia have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of millions, and the destruction of livelihoods impacting tens of millions, with economic costs running into tens of billions.

The shift in alliance presents a strategic policy dilemma for Tigray, especially if a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea were to break out

This multifaceted crisis has already threatened the integrity of the Ethiopian state. Tigray is connected to Ethiopia through the Pretoria Agreement that ended the war in Tigray. The Pretoria agreement, opposed by Amhara regional forces (Fano) and the Eritrean regime, however resulted in former allies Fano, and Eritrean government turning against the Government of Ethiopia (GoE). The resistance movements in Amhara and Oromia regions are also seeking radical change in Ethiopia. The shift in alliance presents a strategic policy dilemma for Tigray, especially if a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea were to break out, potentially leading to significant change in regional balance of -military, diplomatic and economic- power.

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A war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, encompassing scenarios like taking over ports, regime change, or the permanent deployment of armed forces, would place Tigray in a complex strategic policy dilemma. Tigray would have to navigate through multiple, albeit unsatisfactory, strategic options, each presenting grave threats and opportunity costs. In this context, TIRA is contending with internal power politics, leadership failure and strategic security dilemma, especially considering the looming possibility of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Currently, the political, and military leaders of Tigray are engaged in a prolonged intra-regional leadership meeting, deliberating the state of the region and its leadership. AU’s decision to call for a political dialogue comes at a time when Tigray leadership deliberates on internal political differences, although managed civilly, are yet to be fully resolved. The Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) are playing a constructive role in these sessions, which remain peaceful and free from the threat or use of force. Such introspective and evaluative sessions, involving the elite and the broader population, could lay the groundwork for a democratic culture within the Tigray politico-military community. While it came into being about eight months ago, although it is the de jure government, the TIRA is still grappling to establish de facto control over the state. This deliberative forum is anticipated to provide strategic guidance for the swift assertion of its authority. The intensity of these debates about power and politics, currently absent in Addis Abeba or Asmara, could be a foundation for democratic practices. International partners should support such indigenously developed mechanisms of political corrective measures and efforts of accountability.

Proxy battlegrounds for external powers such as Libya, Yemen, and Sudan serve as stark examples, where the integrity of the state has suffered irreparable damage

Impact of America’s shift in policy towards Eritrea: Reconfigured balance of power

In this ambiguous political context, against the backdrop of the Ethiopian political dispensation and differences within Ethiopia’s ruling Prosperity Party on the peace process itself, the Pretoria Agreement has brought about a shift in allegiances and balance of forces in Ethiopia and beyond. The possibility of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea looms large and it could easily become another proxy conflict between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)-led bloc and the bloc led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The international community, preoccupied with conflicts deemed “more geopolitically significant”, is failing to take action to avert the continuing loss of civilian lives caused by famine and conflicts between these states. Proxy battlegrounds for external powers such as Libya, Yemen, and Sudan serve as stark examples, where the integrity of the state has suffered irreparable damage, their economy collapsed, and civilian toll skyrocketed. 

The new US Administration’s policy towards the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) is expected to cause a shift in the regional dynamics, as it has taken a more drastic turn since November 2023. The new US Integrated Country Strategy (ICS) for Eritrea, reviewed and updated on November 17, 2023, indicates the urgency of this policy shift, stating (US Department of State, 2023, p 3):

As a priority, the [US] Embassy will continue to encourage Eritrea to become a proactive and constructive member of the international community, including the continued pursuit of improved relations with neighboring countries and within the region. While sanctions remain in place, the embassy will endeavor to open communication lines to establish commonalities that serve the interests of the people of both countries.

As justification, the 2023 ICS states (US Department of State, 2023, p 4):

The November 2022 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement brought an end to a two-year conflict in northern Ethiopia and precipitated the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the Tigray region. The peace process and Eritrea’s de-escalation of military presence provide an opportunity to reshape bilateral relations with Eritrea to a more productive end, including peace and development in the Horn of Africa. The U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea, strives to build on this positive change and increase the understanding between the people of the United States and the people of Eritrea.

This shift, according to the U.S. government, also aims to support Eritrea’s outreach to regional leaders, particularly to Kenya, and its rejoining of the IGAD, signaling a renewed interest in regional cooperation. Notably, the December 2022 visit by the Kenyan President to Eritrea, the first of its kind in four years, has been recognized as a crucial event in the advancement of diplomatic relations between Kenya and Eritrea. Moreover, in late 2022, Eritrea signed a five-year Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework with the UN. Eritrea’s call for peace in Sudan and its role in hosting peace dialogues is cited as demonstration of its constructive regional involvement.

The Eritrean regime remains heavily mobilized along the Tigray border and other neighboring areas of Ethiopia. Moreover, Eritrea has not officially declared an end to the war in Tigray and has only partially withdrawn its forces

Despite the importance of the Pretoria Agreement and other developments, the justification for this radical rapprochement seems precarious. Contrary to the “Eritrea’s de-escalation of military presence” that the 2023 ICS bases for the shift of policy, the total military mobilization of the Eritrean population in response to Ethiopian government provocations has reportedly reached unprecedented levels this year. The Eritrean regime remains heavily mobilized along the Tigray border and other neighboring areas of Ethiopia. Moreover, Eritrea has not officially declared an end to the war in Tigray and has only partially withdrawn its forces. There are no clear indications that Eritrea will expand human rights protection and civic space, nor is there evidence of moves towards constitutional democratic governance, regular elections, or reforms to the National Service program, on which the 2023 ICS justifies the change of course.

The arrival of 2023 ICS signifies a sharp departure from the strategy established on May 5, 2022. Just a year prior, the 2022 ICS stated that “An Eritrea strategically aligned with China will see no reason to reform its human rights issues and could deny the United States access to a large part of the most valuable shipping route in the world and increases China’s foothold in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea was also condemned for having “one of the lowest human rights standards in Africa,” with President Isaias Afwerki’s government being labeled as repressive and totalitarian. In addition, it was pointed out that a China-backed Eritrea may be less inclined to address its human rights problems. While the 2023 ICS is exploring new avenues of engagement with Eritrea, it also underscored the significant challenges and concerns remain, particularly regarding China’s involvement and the human rights and regional stability.

Uncharted political dialogue: A continuation of Pretoria negotiations?

The mitigation of multiple calamities largely hinges on the primacy of politics and the international community’s readiness to deploy preventive diplomacy. Under article 10 (2) of the Pretoria agreement, the “political dialogue” between the two parties should aim to “find lasting solutions to the underlying political differences between them”; however, it does not specify the necessary modalities or the composition of the “political dialogue”. Unfortunately, the lack of a clear roadmap and procedures for the political dialogue, coupled with the failure of the AU and MVCM to issue public progress reports, means that the secretive nature of the dialogue could give rise to new conflicts in the country. The lack of progress reports and limited oral and informal communication from the mediators and monitors over the past year have only worsened the mistrust between the conflicting parties and the public.

In this context, the AU meeting called for an acceleration of “the DDR [Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration] and the resettlement of IDPs [internally Displaced Persons], and the imperative to launch political dialogue to address outstanding issues from the [the Pretoria Agreement].”1 This decision is based on article 10 (2) of the agreement, which stipulates the “political dialogue” between the two parties should seek “lasting solutions to their underlying political differences.” However, it fails to detail the modalities or composition of this dialogue. The political dialogue between the FDRE and TPLF was scheduled to start a week after the TPLF’s removal from the terrorist list on 22 March 2022.

In this context, key questions raised during the negotiations of the Pretoria Agreement remain pertinent: What precisely defines political dialogue, and who should be involved in it? What constitutes a successful political dialogue? What is its end state?

Although the TPLF is a signatory to the Pretoria Agreement, and its terrorist designation has been lifted, the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has declined to restore the TPLF’s legal status. Despite this, TIRA includes both non-TPLF and TPLF representation, with a majority of seats held by TPLF members. Given that the root cause of Ethiopia’s war with Tigray is the political disagreement between Tigray’s populace and the current regime in Addis Abeba, legal and political factors suggest that TIRA, with its slightly broader representation and legal status, is a more appropriate representative of Tigray in political dialogue. Initially, the TPLF’s signatory status in the Pretoria Agreement was an anomaly, especially considering the existence of a Tigray government.

More essentially, in order to “find lasting solutions to the underlying political differences”, the political dialogue needs to address the key issues that underlie the war on Tigray. These, as discussed in my 2018 piece, include the Tigray dilemma that morphed to the genocidal war. The political dialogue needs to crucially lead to security pact that guarantee the non-repetition of a similar genocidal war by curbing war making powers of the authorities. Going hand in hand with this are the question of self-determination and respect for the will of the people of Tigray, political power for self-rule, respect for the constitution, accountability for those guilty of atrocities, and effective remedies and reparations for the victims of atrocities, including victims of rape and sexual violence. Bearing in mind the challenges faced not only by Tigray but also by the entire country, both Tigrayans and the rest of Ethiopia would benefit from transparent political dialogue that boost public trust.

The Pretoria Agreement has proved successful insofar as it has prevented the outbreak of further hostilities between the TDF and ENDF. Although active armed offensives have ceased, bad faith persists by way of non-compliance

Broken Pledges: The unfulfilled promises of the Pretoria Agreement and rising discontent in Tigray

The Pretoria Agreement outlined several key provisions, including: the general cessation of hostilities; access to humanitarian aid; the revocation of the TPLF’s “terrorist” designation; restoration of services; the re-establishment of constitutional order, which encompasses the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara military forces and the repatriation of IDPs; implementation of transitional justice and accountability for atrocities; the release of political prisoners; and the re-admission of international news media to Tigray. The demands of the GoE focused on the disarmament of the TDF, recognition of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) as the sole legitimate armed entity in Ethiopia, invalidation of Tigray’s September 2020 elections, dissolution of the regional government and legislature, and Tigray’s acceptance of federal authority.

The Pretoria Agreement has proved successful insofar as it has prevented the outbreak of further hostilities between the TDF and ENDF. Although active armed offensives have ceased, bad faith persists by way of non-compliance with obligations under the Pretoria Agreement. Although the central government’s demands have largely been met, leading to the implicit ousting of Tigray’s former regional leadership and dissolution of the regional council, many of Tigray’s requests – specifically the withdrawal of Eritrean and Amhara forces from Tigray territories, the return of IDPs, transitional justice, and accountability for atrocities – remain unfulfilled. A raft of questions has been left unanswered and many problems remain unresolved.

While many services have been reinstated in Tigray, disruptions and restrictions remain widespread. Security impediments to the distribution of humanitarian aid persist; Amhara regional forces continue to occupy west Tigray and the EDF maintains its presence (and attacks) on Tigray soil; the civilian population in north and west Tigray lacks sufficient and robust security protection; and the little progress made by the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) in international investigation and accountability mechanisms has been dimmed by the termination of its mandate.

The lack of progress in delivering some key promises of the Pretoria Agreement, such as providing security to the population, withdrawing non-ENDF forces, and respecting constitutional boundaries, has heightened pressure on the TIRA. This has undermined its performance and affected its popular legitimacy. The inadequate progress could be blamed on a lack of interest on the part of the federal authority. Further, it seems that some national, regional, and extra-regional elements may have an interest in destabilizing the transition and even derailing the peace agreement itself for various reasons, including proxy wars by Gulf middle powers and the fear of accountability by those involved in atrocities.

Representation and oversight during the transition

The TIRA has recently introduced a draft regulation to establish the Tigray Interim Council (TIC). The TIC is a transitional advisory council in lieu of an elected representative body. This may be especially important because the federal institutions of checks and balances are neither impartial nor autonomous in the eyes of Tigrayans. A lack of legitimate Tigrayan representation in federal entities such as the House of Representatives and the House of Federation render those bodies mute as legitimate institutions, in the view of Tigrayans.

A lack of legitimate Tigrayan representation in federal entities such as the House of Representatives and the House of Federation render those bodies mute as legitimate institutions

The TIC, if constituted with inclusiveness and the active participation of representatives from all major stakeholders in Tigray, could to a degree rectify the wrongs in the formation of TIRA and also help provide a ‘shock absorber’ for Tigray politics. With oversight and legislative powers, its responsibility should be to meet the aspirations of the Tigrayan people. The primary function of the TIC and, for that matter, the TIRA, should be to oversee the transitional period, including preparations for transformative elections, thereby creating an environment conducive to free, fair, inclusive, competitive, and credible elections. Such an approach will enable a smooth handover of power at the end of the transitional phase. The TIC could also have the key role of oversight over the TIRA as the executive power. Furthermore, it could insulate the transitional process from unwarranted external interference, fostering unity of purpose among the Tigrayan people and promoting the region’s essential interests.

Additionally, the TIC should collaborate with TIRA to restructure and conduct a vetting process for the public service, including the justice and security sectors, which cover regulatory, policing, and enforcement functions. Along with other objectives, the focus of this TIC should also be on helping TIRA rebuild all tiers of the administrative systems in Tigray, with a clear separation between TPLF and other political parties within the autonomous public service sector. For instance, the hugely experienced and well-qualified middle-level TDF officer corps, who enjoy popular legitimacy vetted by the local population, in combination with local educated elites could provide the backbone for a new, technocratic local government structure. Such an arrangement would open up grassroots political plurality in Tigray and ensure a more level playing field for the forthcoming election. Certainly, without real reform of local administrative tiers the TIRA will carry less weight.

Furthermore, as a proximate representation of the people of Tigray, the TIC needs to be empowered and tasked to diligently towards the establishment of truth surrounding the war and accountability for those responsible for atrocities. It shall also represent the people of Tigray in ensuring that no initiative for transitional justice shall be carried out without the full and meaningful participation of the war’s victims. This process must be undertaken only by mechanisms with complete independence, trusted by the victims of atrocity, and that can provide effective remedies for victims and communities affected by atrocity crimes.

Ensuring that the assembly is staffed by competent and independent individuals from all sectors of society is essential in endowing the assembly with societal legitimacy. The primary legislative and oversight functions of the TIC determine its structure. Given its distinct functions and objectives, which differ from those of the previous council elected before the war and the Pretoria Agreement, the TIC requires a secretariat with specialized expertise and working procedures tailored to these needs. Innovative approaches are essential for the TIC, as it operates within Tigray, across Ethiopia, and on a global stage. Therefore, a secretariat that is adaptable and open to new methods of operation is crucial. The failure to put such an arrangement in place would vitiate the constitutionally guaranteed sovereignty of the Tigray people to their legislature and would leave the executive without checks and balances or oversight.

Three commanding heights

One critical factor affecting the transitional process in Tigray is domestic political developments in Tigray and Ethiopia, in particular the intricate interplay between the three commanding heights created by the Pretoria Agreement. These are, respectively, a) the TPLF Politburo and Central Committee, which are operating as two separate entities for now; b) the GoE (through the Prime Minister and ENDF, where the Prosperity Party plays a very limited role); and c) the TIRA (the President, two deputies and the Cabinet) and TDF, which acts in between the three power centres. The three-way tension creates a ripple effect, affecting outcomes of the transition in Tigray, influencing political and security relations with Ethiopia, and potentially impacting the regional conflicts in Sudan and Eritrea, and widening into influencing geopolitical dynamics.

The ongoing meeting could lead to the transformation of both the TIRA and TPLF or the weakening of either

All these commanding heights are under intense pressure from their respective political constituencies, adding further complexity to a complicated, evolving situation. The GoE is now at war with the Amhara forces, and the GoE and the Eritrean government are vigorously engaged in a war of propaganda, and they have mobilized and deployed their military capabilities to border areas. Meanwhile, the TPLF could be seen as containing at least two strands in its political thinking – that of the core group, confident in its ability to regain control, and that of the reformists, who advocate transformation. This internal tension became evident during the ongoing marathon meeting of the TPLF with the active participation of TDF and TIRA leaders, which has lasted for the past month. The ongoing meeting could lead to the transformation of both the TIRA and TPLF or the weakening of either.

Some elements in the TPLF may see their power eroded within both the TPLF and TIRA, which could further complicate regional political dynamics. Should this internal tension escalate into a struggle for survival, it is plausible that any of Tigray’s major political forces may align themselves more closely with and lend support to the GoE. Such an outcome could significantly influence the course of the transition with significant implication to the people. Successful management of these diverse pressures, while navigating the sensitive political landscape, will be crucial in determining the path of the transition.

Transitional scenarios

We can consider three major scenarios for the outcomes of the Tigray transition.

The first, clearly the most desirable, would be a Smooth Transition. Under this scenario the TIRA successfully delivers on the core promises of the Pretoria Agreement, particularly a successful end to the transitional period, by creating an enabling environment for credible, free, fair, and peaceful elections. Success would also mean ensuring the immediate, unhindered, and adequate distribution of humanitarian aid to end deaths from famine, ending the occupation of Tigrayan territory, laying foundations for lasting security, peace and economic development, and facilitating investigation and accountability mechanisms. Such a scenario requires success in achieving consensus among all forces in Tigray; and the establishment of a constitutional, democratic, and inclusive system.

The second scenario is a Paralyzed Transition. This represents the current situation and the most challenging possibility. Certain parties may want the TIRA to fail. The GoE, under the leadership of the Prime Minister and the ENDF, along with or independent of the Eritrean government and Amhara forces, may see Tigrayan internal discord as an opportunity to further interest or centralize political power. The aim may be to keep Tigray in a state of weakness and division, making it increasingly dependent on the federal government. Under this scenario the TIRA faces challenges in delivering on the promises of the Pretoria Agreement. Power politics, internal divisions, and competition between Tigrayan forces, including the TPLF, federalists, independence movements, and all those in between, leading to paralysis and a stalemate. In such a situation, transformation is hindered or limited to reforms during the transitional period, for reasons such as resistance to and interference in the TIRA, the leadership’s failure to take bold transformational action, a lack of political will among critical actors in Tigray, and resource constraints. The term “Paralyzed Transition” describes a standstill or stagnation in the face of the necessary progress towards security, ending the occupation, the protracted displacement and above all addressing famine. The TIRA fails to create an enabling environment for elections, and conduct free, fair, and credible elections that manifests the aspirations of the people of Tigray. Political paralysis could lead to disagreements and popular discontent that escalate into more conflict and violence, while external interference further undermines Tigray’s stability and security.

It is imperative for international actors to support the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement by establishing measurable objectives and advocating for the withdrawal of non-ENDF and non-Tigrayan forces from Tigray

The third scenario envisages a Collapsed Transition. Power struggles, fractures within the Tigray elite, and alliances between Tigrayan and federal forces lead to a race to the bottom. The TIRA struggles to end death from famine and fails to deliver on any of the promises of the Pretoria Agreement and cannot create an enabling environment for elections, facilitate aid distribution to end famine, or end the occupation. Tigray’s development potential is significantly hampered, and the region remains excluded from social and economic development. The relationship between the GoE and TIRA becomes strained as the TIRA fails to meet Tigrayans’ fundamental expectations. These include the restoration of Tigrayan territories; the return of IDPs to their homes, land and property; the disruption of essential services, and the creation of a democratic space for elections. In such a situation, the TIRA may increasingly place demands on the GoE. In an extreme case, the parties to the Pretoria agreement further disagree on many fronts, including the war rhetoric between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and armed conflicts in various parts of the country. This may exacerbate tensions and lead to increased regional instability.

If such a disaster is to be avoided, the TIRA must focus on addressing urgent priorities such as aid to those stricken by famine while working on strategic matters. If the TIRA is to succeed it is crucial to bring about a level playing field for all political parties, establish robust electoral mechanisms, conduct voter education programs, and resolve electoral disputes impartially. Although the TPLF and the GoE have each played a critical part in determining the outcome of the Pretoria Agreement thus far, the TIRA’s role will take on greater significance as implementation of the agreement unfolds.

There are formidable obstacles to achieving the optimal scenario. These include the looming possibility of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which could easily escalate into another proxy conflict involving the Saudi Arabia-led bloc and the bloc led by the United Arab Emirates. Considering the conflicts in Oromia and Amhara, the war rhetoric between Ethiopia and Eritrea, along with other geopolitically significant conflicts in the Middle East and Europe, coupled with the upcoming US elections, it is unsurprising that the international community has paid little attention to the region. This lack of focus has led to a tendency for forecasts to lean towards the negative. The international community, preoccupied with conflicts deemed ‘more geopolitically significant,’ is failing to act effectively to prevent the ongoing loss of civilian lives caused by famine and conflicts between these states.

It is imperative for international actors to support the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement by establishing measurable objectives and advocating for the withdrawal of non-ENDF and non-Tigrayan forces from Tigray. A significant step in this direction would be for the AU to publicly release a progress report on the implementation of the Pretoria Agreement. Such a report could be instrumental in exerting pressure on the parties involved and their allies. More strategically, the AU, its leadership, and member states need to assess whether the AU’s various normative and institutional architectures, established to prevent wars like those in Ethiopia and Sudan, or deescalate the war rhetoric involving Ethiopia and Eritrea, are still fit for the purpose they were founded for. At the time of writing, such an outcome seems distant. AS


Editor’s Note: Mehari Taddele Maru teaches at the European University Institute, Italy. He is a frequent contributor to Addis Standard publications.

1 It is not clear why the meeting called for “the resettlement” of IDPs instead of their “return”, as the two have different meanings. While resettlement may mean the relocation of people not necessarily to their areas of origin, “return” of IDPs means specifically relocating people to their areas of origin. It is to be recalled that the title of the agreement, “permanent cessation of hostilities”, is an oxymoron, as cessation of hostilities is temporary while a ceasefire is permanent.

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