Publication - OI

Peace negotiations in Pretoria (2022)

LE 14.11.2022

Eritrean–Ethiopian War Map 1998. Skilla1st / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Peace negotiations in Pretoria bring an end to the two-year civil war in Ethiopia

Aïnès Mehadaoui

Aïnès Mehadaoui is a student in the Peace, Humanitarian Action and Development Masters program at Sciences Po Lille, specializing in the study of conflict management and development issues.

After a first postponement in early October, peace negotiations concerning the civil war in Ethiopia began on the 24th of October 2022 at the initiative of the African Union. The meeting was held in Pretoria, South Africa, under the mediation of the American special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, of the former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, of the former South African Vice-President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and of the former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Both Tigrayan rebel forces and the Ethiopian government participated in the talks. On Wednesday 2nd of November, they managed to reach an agreement to “cease the hostilities” and “disarm methodically”. 

The truce happened just two days before the second anniversary of the beginning of the conflict. To understand the causes of this war, we need to go back to the 1990s. After the fall of the military regime Derg, a provisional government was in charge of writing a new Constitution, adopted in 1994. The text established Ethiopia as a federation of ethnic-based regional states. From then on, the country was ruled by an ethnic coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), dominated for years by Tigrayans.

However, a succession of crises (agriculture, politics, etc.) fed rebellions and brought Abiy Ahmed to power in 2018, becoming the first prime minister of Oromo (another ethnic group in Ethiopia) background. He was entrusted with a specific mandate to restore democracy and peace in the country. He managed to sign a peace agreement with Eritrea, while the country had been in a border conflict with Ethiopia since the end of hostilities in 2000. This agreement earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. 

However, Abiy Ahmed disagrees with the founding ideology of the Constitution and wants to put an end to ethnic federalism. For this reason, he created the Prosperity Party as a successor to the EPRDF, which erases all ethnic divisions. He was met with the opposition from the Oromos and the Tigrayans, kept away from power.

In response, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) leaders held their own regional elections, and said they would no longer recognize Abiy Ahmed as leader when his term expires in October 2020. The central administration therefore declared the regional elections unconstitutional, but the TPLF largely won them. Abiy Ahmed retaliated by declaring the Tigray Regional Government illegitimate, demonetizing its banknotes, and suspending federal subsidies to the region. The TPLF interpreted it as a declaration of war and attacked a government base to prevent repression in the region.

For the last two years, the conflict has raised concerns on the international scene around the humanitarian costs of the war and the threat to the stability of the region. Indeed, both parties were accused of human rights violations, not only in Tigray but also in Amhara, where the Tigrayan forces have allegedly engaged in extra-judicial executions, rapes, looting and others. For their part, the Tigrayans accused the Eritrean forces in particular of attacking civilians using drones, on behalf of the Ethiopian government. According to estimates by numerous humanitarian organizations, millions of people are suffering from hunger and over two million people are displaced. Above all, Prime Minister Ahmed’s regime is accused of deliberately using this food crisis as a means of war to weaken the Tigrayan forces. 

The involvement of foreign forces in the conflict widened the stakes of this civil war. As mentioned, Eritrea was a key ally for the Ethiopian forces, blocking Tigray from the north. Their help was driven by the hatred that President Issayas Afeworki vowed to Tigray from the 1998-2000 war. On the sidelines, the Sudanese army is trying to regain triangle control of the Al-Fashaga, a fertile land situated between the Tekezé and Atbara rivers and disputed by the two countries.

Many countries publicly showed concerns : on October 12th, the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands declared: “We ask the parties to recognize that there is no military solution to this conflict”. In their statement, the six Western countries also called on Eritrea to withdraw its troops from Tigray, condemning its “increasing involvement” and stated that “all foreign actors should stop fueling this conflict“. On October the 17th, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters in New York: The situation in Ethiopia is spiralling out of control. Violence and destruction are reaching alarming levels”. He called for “the immediate withdrawal and disengagement of the Eritrean armed forces from Ethiopia”

The truce will now allow humanitarian aid to reach Tigray and other territories subjected to conflict in order to resolve the humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the negotiations legitimize the role of the African Union in the region, which advocates for the resolution of conflicts via dialogue and through African mediation. Through its actions, it has opened a path to multilateral relations in the continent, thanks to common values and goals. It has also fostered international cooperation, to be considered on an equal footing with other regional and international organizations. Despite this, its legitimacy now lies on the durability of the peace in Ethiopia.

Pour citer ce document :
Aïnès Mehadaoui , "Peace negotiations in Pretoria (2022). Peace negotiations in Pretoria bring an end to the two-year civil war in Ethiopia". Décryptage de l'actualité [en ligne], 14.11.2022,