It has been 26 months since the Ethiopian government declared a genocidal war on Tigray. In that time, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF), Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) and regional forces from the neighboring Amhara region have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and acts of genocide throughout Tigray. Due to the Ethiopian government’s communications blockade, we have yet to uncover the full scale of the atrocities unleashed over the last two years. However, reports indicate that over 600,000 thousand people have died due to the war since 2020. Additionally, tens of thousands have been victims of systematic and widespread Conflict Related Sexual Violence (CRSV). While over 70,000 have been forced to leave their home and flee to neighboring Sudan, there are over 2 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Tigray, many displaced several times, taking shelter in abandoned buildings and schools. Many of the IDPs come from areas near the Eritrean border and from Western Tigray, which has been a site of egregious ethnic cleansing. Finally, due to the Ethiopian government’s campaign of destruction, ongoing siege, and aid blockade, a devastating famine has taken hold in Tigray. With malnutrition rates at emergency levels, especially among children, pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations, hundreds of thousands of lives are in jeopardy. Unless reliable and unrestricted aid flow is restored in Tigray immediately, millions risk severe malnutrition and starvation related deaths.

As highlighted in the December Situation report, in the last week of October 2022, representatives from the Ethiopian and Tigrayan governments met in South Africa to negotiate a Cessation of Hostilities of Agreement (CoHA). Since this meeting, the representatives have met twice in Nairobi, Kenya to work out the implementation of the Agreement. In an unprecedented development, on December 26, 2022, a high-level delegation of the Ethiopian federal government visited Mekelle, Tigray, to hold talks with leaders of the Tigray regional government. These are important developments that can facilitate an end to the unimaginable suffering the people of Tigray are still enduring. However, there are several important points to note. First, essential services including electricity, internet, and banking remain inaccessible for the overwhelming majority of the Tigrayan people. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that the Ethiopian government lift its deadly siege and restore essential services across the region. Second, while two sets of leaders who were at war a few months ago coming together to hold discussions is an encouraging step, it must be followed up with action that can deliver relief to the millions of people they represent.

As such, leaders of the Tigrayan and Ethiopian governments must work together to ensure the immediate and verified withdrawal of Eritrean forces who are still marauding across Tigray committing innumerable atrocities. Third, it must be emphasized that peace is not a substitute for justice and accountability, but rather, a requirement for both. Therefore, ensuring that justice by way of investigations is delivered for millions in Tigray who have endured war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide must be part and
parcel of the peace process.