It was Redwan Hussein, National Security Advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who announced this Wednesday, October 5: Addis Ababa has “accepted” the AU’s invitation to talks scheduled for this week. -end in South Africa. Tigray rebel leader Debretsion Gebremichael also said he was “ready” to send negotiators.
According to a letter addressed to the two parties by the chairman of the AU Commission, the Chadian Moussa Faki Mahamat, these negotiations aim to work towards the resolution of a conflict which has lasted for almost two years.
« [L’UA] sent an invitation to peace talks. The Government of Ethiopia has accepted this invitation, in line with our principled position regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the need for discussions without preconditions,” a indicated Redwan Hussein, Wednesday morning, in a tweet.
The AU has issued an invitation for peace talks. The GoE has accepted this invitation which is inline with our principled position regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the need to have talks without preconditions.
— Redwan Hussien (@RedwanHussien) October 5, 2022
The evening before, Debretsion Gebremichael had published a press release in which he indicated to Moussa Faki Mahamat that he was ready to send “a team of negotiators to South Africa”, while asking for “clarifications on certain questions”. “Will there be additional actors invited as participants, observers or guarantors? What role do you envision for the international community,” he also asked.
Discussions led by Obasanjo
The AU’s invitation letter refers to “discussions between the two parties” and only names the Ethiopian government and the rebels, seeming to indicate that neighboring Eritrea of Issayas Afeworki, whose army supports Ethiopian government forces , is not invited. The Tigrayan rebels have always maintained that they would refuse Asmara’s presence at any talks.
Spokeswoman for the AU Commission chairperson, Ebba Kalondo, said details would be communicated “at the appropriate time, in consultation with the parties”. Moussa Faki Mahamat Faki’s missive also indicates that the discussions will take place under the aegis of the former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo – special envoy of the AU for the Horn of Africa -, assisted by the former president Kenyan, Uhuru Kenyatta, and the former South African vice-president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
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After a five-month truce, which had raised hopes for peace negotiations, fighting resumed on August 24 between the rebels and the federal army. Already in September, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer (and former US Ambassador to the DRC) has been back in the region since October 3 to “achieve a cessation immediate hostilities in northern Ethiopia and support the launch of peace talks under the aegis of the African Union,” according to the State Department. He was in Nairobi on Thursday, according to the American Embassy in Kenya.
The conflict began in November 2020, when Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to Tigray to dislodge regional government leaders, who challenged his authority and whom he accused of attacking military bases there. Hostilities are taking place largely behind closed doors, with northern Ethiopia off-limits to journalists and Tigray largely cut off from the world.
According to concordant sources, Ethiopian forces and Eritrean troops take Tigray in a pincer movement, leading offensives on several fronts. In September, Afeworki’s army crossed the border in several places, but made little progress and positions on the ground have changed little in recent weeks, despite deadly fighting.
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Two million displaced
Quickly defeated in November 2020, the rebels regained control of most of Tigray in mid-2021 during a counter-offensive which saw them approach Addis Ababa. They then retreated to Tigray and have since accused the government of “besieging” the region, which the latter denies.
The toll of this deadly war is unknown. But it has displaced more than two million people and hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.
Tigray and its six million inhabitants have been without electricity, telecommunications, banking services or fuel for more than a year, and the UN has completely interrupted the delivery of its humanitarian aid since the resumption. of the combats.