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Rebuilding Broken Dreams: Tigray’s Quest for Peace and Justice 



By Batseba Seifu 

Reflecting on the passage of time since the signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement, Tigray finds itself entrenched in a somber reality. What initially sparked a glimmer of hope and cautious optimism has since evolved into a tragic narrative of dashed aspirations and unmet promises. For the resilient people of Tigray, the agreement represented far more than a mere diplomatic accord; it embodied a beacon of hope amid the darkness of conflict and despair. Endorsed with anticipation by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government under the auspices of the African Union (AU), the Pretoria Agreement was heralded as a potential lifeline, promising to pave the way for enduring peace and stability in the region. However, as the sands of time continued to trickle away, the commitments enshrined within the agreement gradually eroded, leaving Tigrayans disillusioned, disheartened, and trapped in the clutches of an interminable cycle of suffering.

Foundations of Hope, Crumbled: 

At the core of the Pretoria Agreement lay three fundamental pillars that were envisioned to serve as the bedrock upon which a new era of peace and prosperity would be built. These pillars—unhindered humanitarian access, the restoration of constitutional order, and the protection of fundamental human rights—were meticulously crafted to instil hope and resilience within the war-weary populace of Tigray. Yet, tragically, these pillars of promise have been relentlessly battered by the storms of political expediency, bureaucratic inertia, and a stark absence of genuine commitment from all stakeholders involved. Instead of serving as beacons of hope and progress, they have metamorphosed into grim reminders of broken vows and unfulfilled dreams, casting a shadow of desolation over the beleaguered region.

Humanitarian Crisis: Ignored and Abandoned:

Perhaps the most egregious failure of the Pretoria Agreement lies in its glaring inability to effectively address the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe ravaging the people of Tigray. Despite explicit provisions mandating unimpeded access to vital humanitarian aid for all those in dire need, vast swathes of the region continue to languish in isolation, severed from the lifeline of life-saving assistance. The Ethiopian government’s callous disregard for the dire humanitarian plight of its own citizens has plunged Tigray into the depths of despair and deprivation. As the international community looks on, malnutrition rates soar, disease runs rampant, and the specter of famine casts its ominous shadow over the embattled region, threatening to engulf countless innocent lives in its merciless grasp.

Misuse and Exploitation of Aid: A Betrayal of Trust:

Even when humanitarian aid manages to breach the formidable barriers erected by bureaucratic hurdles and governmental obfuscation, reports of its wanton diversion and cynical exploitation have emerged, laying bare the ugly underbelly of greed and opportunism that festers amidst the chaos of conflict. Instead of reaching the outstretched hands of the impoverished and vulnerable, aid meant to assuage suffering and instil hope has been shamelessly co-opted, siphoned off, or diverted for nefarious ends. The very essence of humanitarianism, founded on principles of compassion and solidarity, has been desecrated and defiled, perpetuating a vicious cycle of exploitation and betrayal that inflicts untold anguish upon the already beleaguered populace, while eroding the fragile fabric of trust and cooperation upon which meaningful progress depends.

Constitutional Chaos: Occupation and Disenfranchisement: 

Meanwhile, the promise of restoring constitutional order and democratic governance in Tigray remains an elusive mirage, tantalizingly out of reach for its long-suffering inhabitants. Emboldened by a climate of impunity and unchecked aggression, Amhara forces continue to brazenly occupy Tigrayan territory, flouting international law and denying the indigenous populace their inalienable rights to self-determination and autonomy. The Ethiopian government’s abject failure to uphold its solemn commitments under the Pretoria Agreement has only served to exacerbate the wounds of injustice and marginalization, further alienating the Tigrayan populace from the corridors of power and perpetuating a vicious cycle of oppression and disenfranchisement.

Violations of Human Rights: The Silencing of Dissent:

Furthermore, the Pretoria Agreement’s lofty pledge to uphold and safeguard the universal rights and freedoms of all citizens has been shamelessly and systematically violated, with wanton impunity and disdain for the rule of law becoming the norm rather than the exception. Artists, who were trying to fundraise for the Tigray famine were unlawfully detained. Further, Tigrayans were unlawfully detained following a concert in Addis Ababa. Currently, there is en-mass arrest of Tigrayans in Addis Ababa just because they are Tigrayans. These arrests are in addition to the numerous Tigrayans who have not been released following their unlawful detention.

Eritrean Occupation: A Violation of Sovereignty and Dignity: 

Despite the unequivocal provisions outlined within the Pretoria Agreement, Eritrean forces continue to brazenly occupy sovereign Tigrayan territory, in flagrant violation of international norms and principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty. The enduring presence of foreign troops on Tigrayan soil not only perpetuates a vicious cycle of violence and instability but also constitutes a grave affront to the dignity, sovereignty, and self-determination of the Tigrayan people. The brazen flouting of international law and the principles enshrined within the Pretoria Agreement serves as a damning indictment of the international community’s collective failure to hold perpetrators of gross human rights violations and flagrant violations of international law accountable for their actions.

International Inaction: A Betrayal of Trust and Justice: 

While expressions of concern and condemnation from the international community have been forthcoming, meaningful action to hold the Ethiopian government and its allies accountable for their egregious violations of human rights and international law has remained conspicuously absent. Despite mounting evidence of widespread atrocities, including arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and systematic abuses of power, the perpetrators have continued to act with brazen impunity, emboldened by the glaring absence of tangible consequences for their actions. The failure of the international community to translate words into decisive action has only served to prolong the suffering of the Tigrayan people, leaving them feeling abandoned, betrayed, and forsaken by the very institutions and mechanisms tasked with upholding justice, dignity, and human rights on the global stage.

Urgent Call to Action: Restoring Hope and Justice:

In the face of such pervasive suffering and entrenched injustice, the urgent imperative for decisive international action to compel the Ethiopian government and its allies to honor their commitments under the Pretoria Agreement has never been more pressing or more vital. The international community must leverage its collective diplomatic influence and moral authority to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access, uphold the inviolable rights and freedoms of all citizens, and restore constitutional order and democratic governance in Tigray. Enhanced mediation efforts, under the auspices of the African Union (AU), regional powers, and relevant United Nations (UN) agencies, are indispensable to addressing the root causes of the conflict, fostering genuine reconciliation, and laying the groundwork for sustainable peace, justice, and healing in Tigray and beyond. The time for empty rhetoric and half-hearted gestures has long since passed; only through resolute and concerted action can the solemn promises enshrined within the Pretoria Agreement be translated into tangible realities.

About the Author

Batseba Seifu  holds a Masters of Public Administration from New York University and a BA in Law and Justice with short term trainings in International Humanitarian Law; Displacement, Conflict, and Protection; and Operational Research for Humanitarians. She has more than a decade of experience in public service from leading the Black Students Union at North Seattle College to designing and implementing e-learning programs for Peace and Security in Africa to her role as a Country Manager at an Irish social enterprise. Focused on the plight of Tigray, she’s dedicated to advocacy, research, and policy influence, bridging the gap between awareness and action. 

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