June 2023 marks two years and seven months since the onset of the genocidal war against Tigray by Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces. Declared by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4, 2020, the devastating war against Tigray has caused the death of an estimated 600,000 – 800,000 people over the last 31 months. Moreover, tens of thousands have suffered serious injuries, over 60,000 people have fled to neighboring Sudan, and more than 2 million people have been internally displaced within Tigray. Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) has been a key feature of the genocidal war, and the most conservative estimates indicate that tens of thousands of women, girls, men, and boys have been subjected to horrific attacks. Since November 2020, Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Amhara forces have wrought devastating destruction across Tigray, deliberately targeting and destroying vital civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and public facilities. These forces have additionally carried out large-scale looting and destruction of private property, leaving millions of people unable to sustain themselves. The deadly and illegal siege imposed by the Ethiopian government for much of the last two years, which stopped the flow of vital supplies and lifesaving medical and food aid, has degraded food security in Tigray, leaving millions of people in severe food insecurity. Overall, the genocidal war has resulted in catastrophic living conditions across most parts of Tigray while reeling from the trauma of genocide.

The crisis-level food insecurity in Tigray has only worsened since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA).

While the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) on November 2, 2022, which abated much of the fighting, the CoHA is far from being fully implemented and has yet to alleviate the immense humanitarian crisis in Tigray. While the CoHA stipulates that all parties must ensure unhindered humanitarian access, such access has not been granted, leaving millions of people in catastrophic humanitarian conditions. The crisis-level food insecurity in Tigray has only worsened since the signing of the CoHA, with people dying from malnutrition and starvation-related illnesses. Conditions will only worsen as the World Food Programme (WFP) has extended its food aid suspension in Tigray and announced its countrywide suspension.

Furthermore, while the CoHA calls for the immediate removal of invading forces from Tigrayan territory, Eritrean and Amhara forces continue to occupy large swaths of Tigray. While Eritrean forces are occupying parts of Northern Tigray, and in particular, the homelands of the Irob and Kunama people, Amhara forces still maintain control of Western Tigray. This ongoing occupation has dire consequences for the Tigrayans living under Eritrean and Amhara control, who continue to face physical and psychological torment, intimidation, attacks against their identity, and the threat of death. Moreover, until the invading forces leave all parts of Tigray they are occupying, the 2+ million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) cannot return to their homes and begin to rebuild their lives. Currently, IDPs are taking refuge in makeshift shelters in abandoned buildings or schools and struggling to survive amid the severe food insecurity in Tigray. On May 23, 2023, IDPs held region-wide demonstrations in Tigray, demanding the right to return to their homes and resume their lives. It is incumbent on the signatories of the agreement and partners who facilitated the CoHA to ensure that IDPs are able to do so and begin rebuilding their livelihoods.

In addition to ensuring that the CoHA is implemented in its entirety, all stakeholders must also pay close attention to recent developments that may undermine and threaten the fragile peace in the region. Primary among them are the ongoing acts of violence by Eritrean forces and the role of Eritrea as a spoiler in the peace process. In May 2023, Getachew Reda, president of the Interim Regional Administration (IRA) in Tigray, shared in a public broadcast that Eritrean forces are obstructing the work of the African Union-appointed Monitoring, Verification, and Compliance Mission (MVCM). Unless the international community and domestic stakeholders work to fully implement the CoHA and expel invading Eritrean forces from all parts of Tigray, Eritrea will continue to be a spoiler in the peace process. Furthermore, in May 2023, the TPLF’s request to be reinstated as a political party was rejected by the National Election Board of Ethiopia (NEBE). NEBE additionally announced that the TPLF can only operate as a political party if it submits a re-registration request and the board approves it. While NEBE laid out a legal rationale for this rejection, the decision has been met with significant criticism on the part of the IRA in Tigray, which has cautioned that this decision threatens the CoHA. Government institutions must uphold the rule of law, and any significant decisions that threaten the fragile agreement must be considered closely to avoid fallout between key stakeholders.