EDITORIAL: As Ethiopian peace deal holds, worth supporting the country’s stability
EDITORIAL - The Ethiopian peace deal signed in November last year seemed to be a last-ditch effort to stop a self-induced carnage in one of Africa's most important countries. Four months later, it looks like the dose the doctor needed to bring violence to an end has been administered.
This week, we celebrate the parties to the conflict: the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the combatants under the Tigray People's Liberation Front. After two years of needless fighting, the two sides finally got the sense in their minds and agreed to settle the conflict by peaceful means.
This move was not only helpful for the country's dire situation, but it also ensured that suffering civilians have a way out of their misery. Indeed, four months later, we are aware that most people who had been displaced have returned home. Hospitals that had been crowded with the wounded and underserved with medical supplies now have access to routine provisions for relief.
In fact, aid, be it food, medical needs, and other humanitarian support are now flowing unfettered. Communication channels to the Tigray region have reopened, and people who had either fled or hid in caves are now free to do their daily business.
Right from the beginning, observers were saying the war was needless. For a country whose economic growth was always above 7 percent, a violent conflict was the last thing they could ask for. We are not even mentioning that Covid-19 had already brought economies in the region, including Ethiopia's, to a standstill, if not to their knees.
To enter a war was a bad decision. But to accept this error and decide to seek peace through dialogue was a good remedy. The question then was why did the parties fight when the peaceful options were always cheaper? The answer may lie in politics: perhaps parties thought they could win it on the battlefield. But the two-year war now shows that even victors could not fathom the cost of winning. Did this influence the desire to finally hold dialogue? Or did one side feel so much loss it chose peace to save its skin and relevance? We may never know.
But the peace deal in November still needs more work to make it sustainable. For example, Ethiopia knows that the cost of rebuilding Tigray's infrastructure will cut a hole in its budgetary needs. This will be a necessity, nonetheless, especially when you consider that Tigray's stability contributes just as much to the country's well-being. After all, Ethiopia can demonstrate oneness again by reworking destroyed bridges, returning kids to school, restocking hospitals, and allowing business to flow as in the past.
The elephant in the room is how to conduct politics there to ensure local sensibilities are met without hurting the Ethiopian nationhood. When the war began in November 2020, it was blamed on the Tigray region deciding to defy what the national government was doing: it postponed elections. Tigray people will need to choose their leaders freely if long-term stability is to be gained.
This is not to say that Tigray should have the license to defy national authorities. To be a part of Ethiopia, Tigrayan politicians must be ready to be subordinates of the federal government. To gain Ethiopian-ness, Tigray should be ready to work within national laws. What is Ethiopian if one disregards authorities lawfully established in Addis Ababa?
Addis Ababa has a bigger obligation. It must guarantee the safety of people all over the country. Ethiopia's war in Tigray may have masked other conflicts across the country. We are aware of continuous rebel movements in Oromia and other regions whose acts of violence have been just as deadly. Ethiopia may choose to sweep this under