The Ethiopian government and regional forces from Tigray have agreed to cease hostilities, AU mediator Olusegun Obasanjo said on Wednesday during a media briefing which started almost three hours later than scheduled in Pretoria.
The peace agreement is a major breakthrough for the conflict-ridden region which has been plagued by bloodshed and violence for over two years, costing thousands of lives.
Obasanjo said this moment was not the end of the peace process. “Implementation of the peace agreement signed today is critical for its success,” he said, adding that this would be supervised and monitored by a high-level AU panel.
“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly, smooth and co-ordinated disarmament,” said Obasanjo at a ceremony after 10 days on intensive negotiations to reach a consensus.
The AU mediation team was led by former Nigerian president Obasanjo, supported by former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta and former deputy president of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
The mediation team said the agreement included “restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, and protection of civilians”.
In a joint statement issued by the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the parties agreed that the conflict had brought a tragic degree of loss of lives and livelihoods, and said that it was in the interest of the entire people of Ethiopia to leave this chapter of conflict behind and live in peace and harmony.
The parties agreed that was fundamental to reaffirm their commitment to safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and to uphold the constitution of Ethiopia.
The parties added that they had also agreed on a detailed programme of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration for the TPLF combatants, taking into account the security situation on the ground.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the truce, according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
Dujarric told the media on Wednesday that the truce was very much “a welcome first step, which the UN hopes can start to bring some solace to the millions of Ethiopian civilians that have really suffered during this conflict".
The first formal peace talks, which were held behind closed doors and were aimed at ending the two-year Ethiopian war, started in South Africa on October 25.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week that he was honoured that South Africa had been requested to host the AU-led peace talks.
Researchers have estimated that as many as 500 000 Tigrayans have lost their lives from the war and related causes.
Meanwhile, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday that the agreement between the Ethiopian government and regional forces from Tigray to cease hostilities represented an important step for peace, adding that Washington would continue to engage to advance the peace agreement.