As a delegation of the Ethiopian federal government heads to rebel-held Mekelle, there are encouraging signs that the peace deal although still fragile appears to be holding despite hiccups in its implementation.Led by Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tagesse Chafocapital the delegation has been in the Tigrayan capital since Monday to oversee the implementation of the peace deal, a crucial part of which involves disarming fighters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front who have been waging a conflict against Addis Ababa for two years.
The November peace deal in South Africa saw Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front agree to cease fighting and for foreign fighters to leave, for the rebels to disarm, and for blocked aid and other relief services to be restored.
So far all these conditions appear to be met given that Eritrean forces who played an active part in the conflict on the side of federal forces have been leaving their bases in the region for their own territory.
This was a key demand of the TPLF during talks for a ceasefire and the subsequent peace agreement which put paid to hostilities from both sides.
With prodding from Ethiopia, former foe Eritrea has been demonstrating a willingness to respect the terms of the peace deal by pulling out its troops from areas they were occupying in Tigray, the TPLF have also showed tangible signs of sticking to their side of the bargain by agreeing to a timeline for the disarmament of their troops.
Monday’s visit by federal officials to Makelle are being seen by the international community as an encouraging sign that mutual trust is taking root and the peace deal is holding as a result.
“It is believed that this gesture is an attestation to the peace agreement getting on the right track and progressing,” the Ethiopian federal government said in a statement.
Members of the government backed National Dialogue Commission were part of the delegation to Mekelle.
However, despite the rosy picture, there are lingering claims by some federalists that the TPLF are still not beyond reproach.
According to TPLF detractors in Addis Ababa, the rebel movement is preparing in case of a fourth round of conflict by building secret trenches and deploying combatants in different parts of the region behind the scenes.
However, officially, the reassuring words of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad are not allowing such a suspicion to gain traction.
In a social media post over the weekend, PM Ahmad referred to the sense of optimism and trust that is attending to the implementation of the Nairobi II peace agreement signed between his government and TPLF.
Although he didn’t specify any details of the progress made so far, what it hinted is the growing faith in the current peace deal which both sides appear to be respecting thus far.
Ethiopian federal forces have been locked in a bitter conflict with TPLF rebel forces since November 2020, triggering a humanitarian crisis in Tigray with over tens of thousands killed including civilians and some two million others displaced.