WAs the fighting continues in Ethiopia, international actors are looking for ways to initiate a dialogue between the warring parties. The special envoy of the African Union (AU) for the Horn of Africa, the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, spoke of a “window of opportunity” that he sees for this. But there is not much time for a de-escalation of the conflict between the central government and the forces from the Tigray region and their allies.
Obasanjo reported to the United Nations Security Council from Addis Ababa on Monday evening after holding talks in Ethiopia over the weekend, including with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, but also with representatives of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the regional capital Mekele as well with politicians from the Oromia region.
“All leaders here in Addis Ababa and in the north individually agree that the differences between them are political and require political solutions through dialogue,” Obasanjo said. So far, the main forces on both sides, especially in the government, have refused to enter into a dialogue.
400,000 people go hungry
On Tuesday, the AU special envoy wanted to travel to the Amhara and Afar regions. They border on Tigray, the region in northern Ethiopia where the conflict between Prime Minister Abiy and the TPLF turned into violence at the beginning of November last year. Since the TPLF troops went on the offensive in the summer, violence has also spread to Amhara and Afar, displacing thousands of people there.
Obasanjo said he hoped there would be an agreement by the end of the week on the withdrawal of foreign troops from the areas and on ways to provide humanitarian aid. Above all in Tigray the conditions are catastrophic. According to the UN, more than five million people there are dependent on help, around 400,000 are acutely hungry. Accordingly, no aid deliveries have reached the region blocked by the government since October 18. The government says the TPLF is responsible for this.
The American special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, also traveled to Addis Ababa again at the beginning of the week. According to the State Department, he wanted to support Obasanjo’s activities. Fear of a widespread civil war that would destabilize the country with 115 million inhabitants – the second largest in terms of population in Africa – is growing in the international community. This danger is “only too real,” said the UN commissioner for political affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, in the meeting of the Security Council. It would also affect the entire Horn of Africa region.
Rebels formed an alliance
The increased concern is mainly related to the increasing strength of the anti-Abiy Ahmed forces. The TPLF and the “Oromo Liberation Army” (OLA), which are fighting together against the government in Addis Ababa, announced an alliance with eight other opposition groups in Washington on Friday. Above all, however, it is the TPLF and the OLA that are increasingly causing the Ethiopian army and its allies to face increasing military difficulties.
Also on Tuesday, according to local reports, they continued to advance from the north towards the capital Addis Ababa. The reliability of such reports, however, is difficult to assess. Jaal Marroo, the leader of the OLA, told the AFP news agency that there are no threats to civilians, but that Abiy Ahmed and his party must be “completely” ousted from power before reconciliation can take place. “We will make Ethiopia – not just Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa – a peaceful, very stable place to live,” said Marroo.
The government countered this on Sunday with a mass demonstration by Abiy supporters, during which the population was sworn to “resist” the TPLF. According to media reports, numerous demonstrators expressed criticism of the United States. In Ethiopia they are accused of taking sides in favor of the TPLF. Over the past year, the administration in Washington has expressed itself increasingly critical of its ally Abiy Ahmed; This was mainly justified with the serious human rights violations against the civilian population in Tigray.
A week ago President Joe Biden announced that he would withdraw trade privileges from Ethiopia for this reason. At the meeting of the Security Council, the Ethiopian UN Ambassador, Taye Atske-Selassie, blamed Western support for the strength of the TPLF. As for her country, the US representative, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, denied the allegations. “We condemn violence on all sides,” she said.