Obasanjo visits Nairobi as Ethiopia mediation proves elusive

Thursday December 09 2021
Olusegun Obasanjo.

Olusegun Obasanjo, African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


African Union’s High Representative for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, on Wednesday visited Nairobi as part of continued shuttle diplomacy over conflicts in the region.

Obasanjo, a former Nigerian President, was in Nairobi in what State House said was to discuss several “subjects of importance to Kenya, the region and the African continent.”

Appointed back in September by the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, his job description indicated that he “will intensify engagements with all relevant political actors and stakeholders in the region towards entrenching durable peace and stability within the Horn of Africa. “

But his biggest headache has been how to convince parties in Ethiopia to have dialogue. As he travelled to Nairobi, Ethiopians showed little sign of agreeing to dialogue.

The “courtesy call” in Nairobi came as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced he was leaving the battlefront and going back to office “following successful completion of the first phase of ‘Operation for National Unity in Diversity’”, his Office announced on Wednesday.

That operation, which lasted about two weeks, had seen Abiy appear on the frontline as the Ethiopian National Defence Forces pummelled the TPLF. The government claimed more victories over the TPLF and announced that it has retaken towns in Amhara and Afar regions from the rebels.


Read: Ethiopia says it retook towns as TPLF claim retreat, not surrender

That frontline appearance, and calls for youth to rise up and fight against the TPLF had come against a backdrop of calls from leaders, including Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta who warned that it could incite further violence.

Leaders had been calling for cessation of hostilities to allow for humanitarian assistance to be delivered to civilians in Tigray and parts of Amhara and Afar.

On Wednesday, Abiy suggested there won’t be talks, but a total annihilation, even though he has called for those willing to surrender to do so.

“We have to push the scattered enemy to surrender. We have to protect our environment cautiously more than ever before. Search outs and surveillances shall be strengthened,” he said on Wednesday.

“Ethiopia is safeguarded by her gallant children. Ethiopia might be tested, but it was impossible to defeat Ethiopia. Ethiopia will not be defeated today and tomorrow too. The name Ethiopia is always associated with victory.”

The government has been fighting the TPLF, once a ruling party but now considered a terrorist group, since November 4 last year. And strategic towns have been controlled by different parties to the conflict since then. The latest victories came after months of takeovers by the TPLF.

The rebel group said it did not concede defeat but claimed it retreated to strategise. It has accused foreigners of aiding the Ethiopia by supplying better surveillance weapons.