With a Breakthrough Peace in Ethiopia, Now Is Time for Comprehensive Transitional Justice


Nearly two years after the conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region in the north, the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed an African Union-brokered cessation of hostilities agreement on November 2, followed by an implementation deal 10 days later. Under the agreement, the parties pledged to end the fighting permanently, allow for humanitarian access into Tigray, protect civilians, disarm TPLF combatants, restore the federal authority, establish an inclusive Interim Regional Administration in Tigray Region, and facilitate the lifting of the terrorist designation of the TPLF, among other provisions.

Fighting broke out in November 2020 amid Ethiopia’s complex political transition. Since then, mass atrocities and sexual violence have been allegedly committed, hundreds of thousands of people have died, and millions more have been displaced and are in urgent need of food assistance. Meanwhile, the Tigray Region has been largely disconnected from electricity, the banking system, and other critical services for months.

The breakthrough agreement offers a glimmer of hope after two years of brutal war. It charts a path toward ending the conflict, stressing the importance of political dialogue to find durable solutions to underlying political differences. Furthermore, it lays the foundations for addressing the legacy of the serious human rights violations and preventing their recurrence by providing for the implementation of a transitional justice policy centered on accountability, truth seeking, redress for victims, and reconciliation and healing, in line with the Ethiopian Constitution and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy. The agreement calls for an inclusive and comprehensive national transitional justice policy to be developed with input from all stakeholders and civil society groups through public consultations and formal national policymaking processes.

While the peace deal is a first positive step toward ending the conflict, challenges lie ahead related to how its provisions are interpreted and implemented. Building durable peace requires statesmanship, vision, and courage from all parties. Political leaders should take concrete action to address the trust deficit among them and impress upon their constituencies the importance of giving peace a chance. Ensuring unfettered humanitarian access to and resuming vital services in Tigray will be critical to alleviating the suffering of civilians and building public trust in the peace process.

Rampant impunity for serious abuses has paved the way for additional violations during the conflict. Therefore, transparency and inclusivity throughout the transitional justice process, including when selecting the individuals who will lead it, will be essential to its legitimacy. Moreover, victims and their perspectives must be central to the process as it is key to its credibility and the effectiveness of accountability measures.

Ultimately, the transitional justice process in Tigray should be linked to comprehensive solutions that take into account the diverse justice needs in the country in order to achieve a sustainable political settlement and durable peace.