Tigray rebels lay out ceasefire terms

Tigray leaders have published a list of demands "that need to be resolved" before they will accept the Ethiopian central government's ceasefire offer. But are their economic conditions acceptable to the central government?


Image : Yasuyoshi Chiba /AFP

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have published seven demands for their acceptance of a unilateral ceasefire announced by the central government on July 28.

To engage in peace negotiations, the region’s ruling party called for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops, the restoration of basic services such as telecoms and electricity, and the transfer of budget allocations from the federal government to the Tigray region for the last fiscal year. The total outstanding amounts to Ethiopian birr 10.4bn ($240m).

In a statement published on Sunday, the TPLF also demanded the reinstatement and recognition of the regional leadership as the rulers of Tigray, and restoration and compensation for basic infrastructure damaged in the eight month conflict.

In a tweet, TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda also called for the release of prisoners of war, the transfer of war criminals to the international criminal court, unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the region, and for the government to facilitate the return of refugees, and Tigrayans displaced by the conflict.

The statement added that a ceasefire is accepted “in principle” as long as the government can “guarantee that the security of our people will not be jeopardised again by a second round of invasions.”

Government response

With Ethiopia’s government under intense donor pressure, it could be willing to accept some of the TPLF’s demands, says Patrick Heinisch, an economic researcher on emerging markets for Helaba bank.

“The demands could be a basis for negotiations once the final election result is out and the new government (very likely the current one) is constituted.”

“Ethiopia’s funding situation is tight and the longer donor pressure (suspension of budget support) holds on, the more likely it is that the government makes more concessions.”

Ethiopia’s federal government pays Tigray and other regions state subsidies, part of which are allocated from external loans borrowed on behalf of the regions from foreign lenders.

The federal government may be willing to resume the payment of budget transfers to the Tigray region, Heinisch says.

“Other demands will face resistance, for example the withdrawal of Amhara militias from western Tigray.”

In the early days of the conflict, the neighbouring Amhara region sent troops in Tigray in support of the government. Since then, Amhara officials say they have ‘taken back’ a swathe of territory in western Tigray, constituting around a quarter of the region.

In May the federal government classified the TPLF as a terrorist group, fraying hopes of the prospect of peace talks with the party. But since then, the government has hinted at a change of tune, Heinisch says.

“The federal government’s announcement that it is willing to hold an inclusive dialogue with ‘innocent members of TPLF’ is a hint that it no longer sticks to its initial position that it fully excludes negotiations with TPLF.”

Addressing the nation’s parliament on Monday, the prime minister did not address the ceasefire conditions laid out by the TPLF.

Rebels seize regional capital

Tigrayan forces announced they had seized full control of the regional capital Mekelle on Tuesday, as government forces retreated from the city and declared a unilateral ceasefire.

The Ethiopian government ousted the northern region’s ruling party, the TPLF, in November, triggering a devastating civil war.

A spokesman for the TPLF initially rejected the ceasefire offer calling it a “sick joke”, raising fears of further violence.

Election Results

Results in Ethiopia’s divisive parliamentary election started to trickle in on Thursday in the nation’s most populous regions of Amhara and Oromia.

The National Election Board of Ethiopia updated the winning parties and candidates for administrative districts in the two regions, and posted the update on Twitter.

No official delay has been announced in the the country’s sixth national election, that was held on the backdrop of a ruinous civil war.

Ethiopians cast their votes for 547 federal parliament members on June 21, with the leader of the winning party becoming the next prime minister.

Voting was postponed until September in 64 constituencies, many of them in the Amhara and Oromia regions, where officials say they were unable to hold voter registration.

The two regions, home to the country’s largest ethnic groups the Oromo and the Amhara, share a border where attacks on civilians from either side have been rising in recent months.

No votes were cast in the northern Tigray region of 5 million people, with no date set for the vote to take place in the region’s 38 constituencies.

Abiy Ahmed billed the election as the country’s “first attempt at free and fair elections.” But with voting delayed across the country due to security and logistical challenges, analysts said the election was incomplete.

Opposition parties in Ethiopia’s most populous province, Oromia, boycotted the vote over alleged intimidation by regional security forces. Local elections were also pushed back meaning that the ruling party will maintain its grip on local government even if opposition parties make progress in the national polls.

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