The Fractured Reality After the Pretoria Peace Agreement

The Pretoria Agreement, signed on November 2022, represented a milestone in the efforts to resolve the protracted conflict in Tigray.

A Journey Betrayed

The Pretoria Agreement, signed on November 2022, represented a milestone in the efforts to resolve the protracted conflict in Tigray. Crafted through diplomatic negotiations and mediation efforts led by the AU, the agreement sought to pave the way for a sustainable peace process. Central to the agreement were three key pillars: unrestricted humanitarian access, the restoration of constitutional order, and the protection of fundamental human rights. These pillars were envisaged as the foundation upon which Tigray could rebuild, heal, and chart a path towards a more stable and prosperous future.

More than a year has elapsed since the signing of the Pretoria Agreement, an event initially met with cautious optimism as it offered a glimmer of hope for the war-torn region of Tigray. Facilitated under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and endorsed by both the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian government, the agreement was seen as a pivotal moment, promising to usher in an era of peace and reconciliation for the people of Tigray. However, as time has progressed, the stark disparity between the promises made and the harsh realities faced by Tigrayans has become painfully apparent, casting a shadow over the region’s aspirations for peace.

Foundations of Hope, Pillars of Disappointment

The Pretoria Agreement was constructed upon three essential pillars: unrestricted humanitarian access, the restoration of constitutional order, and the protection of fundamental human rights. These pillars were intended to serve as the bedrock upon which Tigray could rebuild and emerge from the devastation of conflict. Yet, the implementation of the agreement has been marred by political maneuvering, lack of genuine commitment, and a disregard for the plight of the Tigrayan people, leaving them vulnerable to ongoing suffering and oppression.

Despite the noble intentions outlined in the Pretoria Agreement, the reality on the ground paints a starkly different picture. The promise of unrestricted humanitarian access has been marred by bureaucratic hurdles, logistical challenges, and outright obstruction by authorities, leaving millions of Tigrayans without access to life-saving assistance. The restoration of constitutional order has been hampered by continued occupation and territorial disputes, with Amhara forces maintaining a stranglehold over Tigrayan lands, denying the region its rightful autonomy and representation. Furthermore, violations of human rights have persisted unabated, with reports of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and widespread abuses of power undermining the very principles enshrined in the agreement.

Humanitarian Crisis: Denial and Deprivation

One of the most glaring failures of the Pretoria Agreement has been the denial and neglect of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Tigray. Despite explicit provisions for humanitarian aid, large segments of the population continue to be denied access to life-saving assistance, resulting in widespread deprivation, displacement, and starvation. The Ethiopian government’s refusal to acknowledge the severity of the crisis has exacerbated the situation, leaving Tigrayans to fend for themselves amidst dire circumstances and perpetuating a cycle of despair.

Misuse and Exploitation of Aid: Profiteering at the Expense of the Vulnerable

Even when humanitarian aid manages to reach Tigray, reports of its misuse and exploitation have emerged, exposing a cycle of corruption and profiteering that further exacerbates the suffering of the people. Instead of reaching those most in need, aid meant for the vulnerable has been diverted for personal gain, leaving Tigrayans without the support they so desperately require and undermining efforts for sustainable recovery and development.

Constitutional Chaos: Amhara Occupation and Political Marginalization

The failure to restore constitutional order in Tigray has perpetuated a cycle of instability and marginalization. Amhara forces continue to occupy Tigrayan lands, denying the people of Tigray their rightful autonomy and representation. This occupation not only erodes trust in the Ethiopian government but also fuels resentment among Tigrayans who feel marginalized, disenfranchised, and betrayed by the state’s failure to uphold their constitutional rights.

Violations of Human Rights: Silencing Dissent and Perpetuating Oppression

The Pretoria Agreement’s commitment to upholding human rights has been systematically violated, with reports of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, and widespread abuses of power becoming all too common. Artists, activists, and ordinary citizens who dare to speak out against the injustices they face have been met with violence and intimidation, further silencing dissent and perpetuating a culture of fear, repression, and impunity.

Eritrean Occupation: A Foreign Stranglehold on Sovereignty

The presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray constitutes a flagrant violation of the Pretoria Agreement and undermines efforts to restore peace and stability. Despite calls for their withdrawal, Eritrean troops continue to exert control over Tigrayan territory, perpetuating a cycle of violence, insecurity, and impunity that threatens to derail any hope of progress and exacerbates the suffering of the Tigrayan people.

International Inaction: A Failure to Uphold Justice

Despite mounting evidence of human rights abuses and violations of the Pretoria Agreement, the international community has thus far failed to hold the Ethiopian government accountable. While expressions of concern have been voiced, meaningful action to address the crisis in Tigray has been lacking, allowing perpetrators to act with impunity and further exacerbating the suffering of the Tigrayan people, while undermining global efforts for peace, justice, and human rights.

Urgent Call to Action: Restoring Hope Amidst Despair

In the face of such pervasive suffering and injustice, urgent action is imperative to address the crisis in Tigray and uphold the commitments of the Pretoria Agreement. The international community must exert sustained pressure on the Ethiopian government to fulfill its obligations, ensure unrestricted humanitarian access to those in need, and facilitate genuine efforts for peace, reconciliation, and justice. Additionally, concerted efforts should be made to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable, promote accountability and transparency, and support sustainable recovery, development, and peacebuilding initiatives in Tigray.

The Road Ahead

The fate of Tigray hangs precariously in the balance, and the international community must act decisively to prevent further suffering, injustice, and impunity. By upholding the principles of the Pretoria Agreement and standing in solidarity with the people of Tigray, we can help pave the way for a brighter, more just, and more dignified future for all Tigrayans, based on peace, justice, and dignity.

Batseba Seifu
Batseba Seifu
Batseba 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.