Minnesota's Ethiopian leaders are cautiously optimistic about the recent peace pact in a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people the past two years.
The landmark truce was struck on Nov. 4 in South Africa. Ethiopia's government and Tigray's leaders agreed to a disarmament, but Eritrea, the country that fought alongside Ethiopia, was notably absent from the talks. On Friday, Ethiopia claimed aid had resumed to the Tigray region.
Though the international community may not have paid much attention, the conflict has had a major impact on both those who are experiencing the daily realities of civil war and on Ethiopian Minnesotans, said Bahar Oumer, executive director of nonprofit Oromo Community of Minnesota.
There are about 35,000 Ethiopian immigrants and people of Ethiopian descent in the state, according to Minnesota Compass data.
The Ethiopian people have experienced widespread displacement, starvation and death since the civil war broke out. Community members in the Twin Cities are frustrated and deeply depressed about what Ethiopians are experiencing, especially in the western Oromia region, where there have been widespread communication blackouts, said Oumer.
"We have members who have lost their loved ones, their close family members. Our members are dismayed by the treatment of our people," Oumer said. "We have members who could not attend the funerals of their loved ones, who could not travel to take their ailing family members to the hospital."
The situation is so precarious that the federal government recently opened 18 months of Temporary Protected Status to Ethiopians as of October. The Minneapolis Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is now waiting on information from the Department of Homeland Security on how Ethiopian refugees can apply.
The past two years have been filled with bad news one day, then a slight improvement the next, which has made it difficult to know what to expect in the conflict, said Esuendale Gashaw, a leading member of the Minnesota chapter of the the American Ethiopian Public Affairs Committee, a national nonprofit that works to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.
The media coverage coming out of Ethiopia was very distorted and did not reflect the realities or truths of events in the area, said Gashaw, who lives in Burnsville.
"Most Ethiopian Americans want this peace agreement to be implemented and this opportunity not to slip away," Gashaw said. "We would like to see the input of the United States ensuring that something like that is not going to happen again."
Abdullatif Dire, who works on humanitarian aid, visited the Oromia region as recently as last month, where there was little fighting at the time. Dire, of Minneapolis, said he is particularly hopeful that leaders of the Tigray region signed on to the disarmament piece of the agreement, but violent conflicts continue elsewhere.
"I believe the peace deal was not inclusive of all warring parties, so that worries me," Dire said.
Community members said it is commendable that Ethiopians will again have access to humanitarian aid and other essential services. But there is no guarantee that this fragile peace will last.
"There is no guarantee that the parties would abide by the terms of the agreement ... the proof is in the pudding," Oumer said.