A cessation of hostilities agreement has been signed between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on Wednesday in South Africa.
Both sides agreed to halt their two-year conflict, which has led to thousands of deaths, displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.
The African Union (AU) represented by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta mediated the surprised deal.
“The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities as well as to systematic, orderly, smooth and coordinated disarmament,” said Olusegun Obasanjo, head of the AU mediation team, at a ceremony.
The agreement will also allow aid deliveries to resume.
The World Health Organization says almost 90% of people in the northern Tigray region need food aid.
About a third of the region’s children are suffering from malnutrition. For most of the past two years – hospitals have been running out of drugs, while electricity, phone and banking services have been cut, along with the internet.
Both sides have been accused of atrocities; include ethnic cleansing and sexual violence.
Obasanjo said they deal include “restoration of law and order, restoration of services, unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, protection of civilians”.
The Ethiopian government officials and representatives of the TPLF have further agreed to a disarmament exercise.
“Ethiopia has only one national defense force. The TPLF has made a major concession – to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate fighters into the federal army,” reads the joint statement.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has described the agreement as “monumental” and said he is committed to implementing it.
The AU mediators say this is just the beginning of the peace process.