Why Ethiopia Needs More Than Just a Cessation of Hostilities for Sustainable Peace

The Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) ended a two-year civil war in northern Ethiopia, causing a humanitarian crisis, mass starvation, and atrocities. The conflict involved the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Eritrean Defense Forces, regional special forces, and ethnic militias, while the Oromo Liberation Army and Tigray People’s Liberation Front were involved. The realignment of these forces is propelling the country towards war, proving that bilateral peacemaking attempts failed to mitigate the conflicts.

The signing of the CoHA in November 2022 brought optimism, but it also led to a rupture between the Amhara and the federal government. The federal government’s move to reorganize regional security apparatuses to build a strong, centralized army was met with resistance from the Amhara, who claimed it would leave them susceptible to aggression. Some Amhara nationalists argued that the resistance was necessary due to longstanding concerns such as ethnic cleansing, killings of ethnic Amharas in neighboring regions, and territorial disputes in Wolqayit and Raya Azebo.

The instability in Amhara, Ethiopia, is attributed to locals’ reaction to threats from neighboring regional forces in Oromia and Tigray. The federal government’s move to build a strong, centralised army was strongly resisted by the Amhara, and the government downplayed the concerns raised. Former Amhara Region president Temesgen Tiruneh accused the armed groups of being enemies of the people trying to dismantle the regional government and federal system. The government condemned the resistance as an effort to obstruct its attempts to address population concerns and work towards national unity.

Failured peace talks between the federal government and the Oromo Liberation Army in Tanzania have intensified, with armed confrontations resumed soon after. The security situation in Oromia remains highly volatile, with reports indicating that the Oromo Liberation Army is expanding its territory beyond its strongholds in the region’s Western parts.

Despite accusations of causing mayhem in the region, both sides seem to agree on the need for peace. The Oromo Liberation Army has reiterated its commitment to use peaceful means to end its decades-long insurgency, but these words will remain empty words if both parties fail to implement concrete steps to build confidence.

The conflict between the federal government and armed groups in Ethiopia is rooted in mistrust and longstanding interregional and ethnic conflicts. To address this, a national reconciliation strategy must be implemented through de-escalation, effective disarmament of regions, and local dialogue. Ensuring the participation of all major players in the ongoing dialogue process and peacebuilding initiatives is crucial.

Ethiopia’s complex conflict landscape is characterized by rival factions, and responses must address both vertical and horizontal conflicts. An all-inclusive peace process is essential, as demonstrated by the clashes since the CoHA and the realignment of forces involved in the North Ethiopian war. A thorough mapping of actors and their grievances is necessary to inform the design of a localized, multicultural, and flexible national reconciliation strategy that addresses both vertical and horizontal grievances.

EthiopiaWhy Ethiopia Needs More Than Just a Cessation of Hostilities for Sustainable Peace