Tsegai Berhane (PhD)

Mekelle University, School of Law

It is to be recalled that the Pretoria Agreement for lasting peace through permanent cessation of hostilities was signed between the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 03, 2022. Since the signing of the Agreement, without the need to go into the details, the Agreement has brought a semblance of peace to our people.

Putting aside our emotions (egos) and hard feelings, I believe, though not complete, we have started to experience some of the fruits of the semblance of peace. I and my family who passed through all the harsh siege and violent conflict are the living witnesses of this hard fact. At least, my kids do not worry about drone attacks and other very inhuman actions which are difficult to narrate all here. But this does not imply all our people are benefiting from the process. We have a long way to go. As people, we suffered while the international community watching from distance, though, some members of the international community, for humanity’s sake or out of principle, did their best to help and raise their voices. Our sincere gratitude to all of them.

However, at this point, it is good to note that I am defining peace in the limited sense as the absence of war. Of course, for a student of peace and conflict, peace means more than the absence of war. The aim of this short piece is just to open a dialogue on the meaning of peace and on sustaining peace/building peace. I strongly believe that building peace begins with dialogue between/among all stakeholders. Furthermore, sustaining peace is a shared process and definitely requires courage and commitment.  

In order to put framework for discussion, I have taken two Resolutions by the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, A-RES, 70/262 and S-RES, 2282 adopted on April 27, 2016 respectively. The Resolutions are reinforced by other agreements and reports, including the report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operation (HIPPO) and the Secretary-General’s follow up to the report, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the World Humanitarian Summit, which all emphasized the importance of preventing violent conflict.  

On sustaining peace, the Resolutions raised important issues. These issues are the what? When? Who? and how? Issues. The resolutions also tried to relate sustaining peace with sustainable development. Accordingly, I will briefly discuss these issues one by one below in order to serve us as frameworks for our discussion.   

  1. Sustaining peace—the what issue?

In the what issue, the two Resolutions, in their preambles, defined sustaining peace/peace building in a broader sense. Accordingly, they defined sustaining peace as ‘encompassing activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict’. In effect sustaining peace is understood as ‘addressing root causes, assisting parties to conflict to end hostilities, ensuring national reconciliation, and moving towards recovery, reconstruction and development.’ The Resolutions also stressed that unlike one time project, sustaining peace/peace building as a goal and a process.

The Resolutions also underlined that sustaining peace to be a political solution between or among conflicting parties and requires comprehensive, coordinated and coherent approach. They further indicated that sustaining peace to include: inclusive political process; safety and security; rule of law and human rights; social services; core government functions; and economic revitalization and livelihoods. 

2. Sustaining peace—the when issue?

The when issue, emphasizes that sustaining peace/building peace is no longer treated as a post-conflict activity but should be a priority during all stages of the conflict cycle—before, during and after. This implies that sustaining peace should take place, simultaneously with peacekeeping, development and humanitarian activities. Above all, the Resolutions emphasize the long-term nature of sustaining peace and the need for political, technical and financial support.      

3. Sustaining peace—the who issue?

The who issue, focuses on who would be primarily responsible for sustaining peace. Accordingly, the two Resolutions states that ‘the primary responsibility for leading the process for sustaining peace rests with national governments and authorities, including sub-national and local authorities.’ By stating that way, the Resolutions underlined the need for national ownership and leadership. They also emphasized the need for inclusive in sustaining peace.  

4. Sustaining peace—the how issue?

As to the how issue, the Resolutions clearly identified some important elements for sustaining peace. The identified elements are: a change in mindset; integrating sustaining peace in relevant plans, policies and trainings; more context-specific joint multi-dimensional conflict and risk analysis; joint identification of conflict outcomes; joined up effective strategic planning and joint monitoring and evaluation; formulation of theory of change; effective, accountable and responsive leadership; adequate, predictable and sustained financing; and partnerships.

5. Sustaining peace vis-à-vis sustainable development?

As to the relationship between sustaining peace and development, the two UN Resolutions underline that sustaining peace and sustainable development to be complementary and mutually reinforcing. The two Resolutions and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development have elements in common. Some of the common elements are: people centeredness; recognize each country has primary responsibility; aim to prevent conflict; emphasize interdependence of issues; and emphasize on inclusive, transparent, effective and accountable institutions. So, when we are aiming to sustain peace, we are also aiming to promote sustainable development. Here, lays the imperative for sustaining peace.      

6. Final remarks

Finally, I would like to underline the fact that the Pretoria Agreement is the first step in the right direction to sustain peace and we need to safe guard it from being derailed. Though, this does not imply it is an end by itself, we have a long way to go. At least, in my humble opinion, the Agreement curbed our collective madness/mutual destruction. I have great respect for the people on both sides who made this reality. Since sustaining peace needs courage and commitment, they have tried to exhibit these qualities. This is without forgetting the role of third parties who tried their best to mediate the Agreement. Will the semblance of peace be sustained? let us cross our fingers and wait. But we should also remember that sustaining peace is every one’s business not to be left to few politicians to mold it the way they like.

By aiga