By Cecilia Ologunagba
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has commended Nigeria’s former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, for facilitating the signing of a peace deal between the Ethiopian Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Obasanjo, who serves as an African Union Mediator, got the two warring sides to sign the peace agreement in South Africa on Wednesday.
With the signing of the agreement, the parties in the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray have agreed on a “permanent cessation of hostilities’’ just more than a week after formal peace talks began in South Africa.
Guterres, in a statement by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said the agreement signed on Wednesday in South Africa represented “a critical first step” towards ending the brutal two-year war.
The UN chief said the “Agreement for Lasting Peace“ through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities brokered by the African Union and mediated by Obasanjo was a promising start.
According to him, it was a promising start to finally stopping the fighting which erupted in November 2020 after months of tension which had destroyed so many lives and livelihoods.
“The secretary-general urges all Ethiopians and the international community to support the bold step taken today by the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Tigrayan leadership,’’ he said.
The secretary-general pledged his support to the parties in the implementation of the agreement.
Meanwhile, Guterres urged both sides to continue with negotiations on the outstanding issues in a spirit of reconciliation to reach a lasting political settlement.
He appealed to all stakeholders to seize the opportunity provided by the ceasefire, “to scale up humanitarian assistance to all civilians in need and to restore the desperately needed public services.”
Guterres commended the AU and its High-Level Panel for the facilitation of the peace talks and South Africa, for its key role in hosting the peace talks.
“The UN stands ready to assist the next steps of the African Union-led process and will continue to mobilise much-needed assistance to alleviate suffering in the affected areas,” he said.
In the first briefing on the peace talks, Obasanjo said that Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan authorities had agreed on an “orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament”.
He said both sides also agreed on the “restoration of law and order, restoration of services and unhindered access to humanitarian supplies“.
At a news conference in South Africa, Obasanjo said that the agreement marked a new “dawn” for Ethiopia.
The war, which broke out in November 2020, has pitted regional forces from Tigray against Ethiopia’s federal army and its allies, which include forces from other regions and from neighbouring Eritrea.