Ethiopian PM sees calls for dialogue over Tigray as outside interference

Wednesday November 25 2020
Abiy Ahmed.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has rejected calls for dialogue over the Tigray crisis. PHOTO | FILE | NMG


Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday rejected more calls for dialogue over the Tigray crisis, terming continued pressure to de-escalate as outside interference.

In a statement, Dr Abiy Ahmed said anyone interested in helping resolve the issue should wait for Addis Ababa to formally make a request, effectively shutting down any intended mediation.

“While we consider the concerns of our friends, we reject any interference in our internal affairs,” Abiy said.

“We therefore respectfully urge the international community to refrain from any unwelcome and unlawful acts of interference and respect the fundamental principle of non-intervention.”

Dr Abiy’s government has been running a military operation in the northern parts of the country in Tigray, pursuing fighters allied to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which he accuses of treason.

But the fighting, which has resulted in nearly 1,000 people killed and as many as 40,000 refugees fleeing into Sudan, has seen the international community call for dialogue to resolve the conflict.


Calls for dialogue

On Tuesday, the matter reached the UN Security Council, but members disagreed right in the middle, with African representatives rejecting the idea of a session on Tigray.

African diplomats from South Africa, Tunisia and Niger argued that they needed to consult with the African Union (AU) which last week appointed three special envoys to attempt to mediate in the Ethiopian issue.

Dr Abiy rejected a mediation offer from the AU. On Wednesday, he seemed to close the same door on the UN and other partners, even as the 72-hour amnesty given to the TPLF to surrender neared expiry.

He said the ‘final phase’ of the crackdown on TPLF fighters, targeting their capital in Mekelle, will be launched after the expiry of a three-day amnesty on Wednesday. The TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, however, rejected the amnesty saying his people are “ready to die” for their land.

But the country’s Western allies—Germany, UK, US and the European Union—had all asked Addis Ababa to go slow on the crackdown and give dialogue a chance.

A statement from the US National Security Council on Tuesday indicated that Washington supports the African Union move to send special envoys to Addis Ababa.

“The United States calls for mediation in Ethiopia and supports the efforts led by [South African] President Cyril Ramaphosa and the African Union to end this tragic conflict now,” the Council said.

UK’s Minister for Africa James Duddridge said military crackdown may not provide the needed solution.

“[The UK is] deeply concerned by reports of hate speech, violence and ethnic discrimination across Ethiopia, which have worrying implications for the country and its people.

“Any such actions must stop. UK sees no military solution and calls for immediate de-escalation and protection of civilians,” Mr Duddridge said.

Last week, President Ramaphosa, the current African Union Chairperson, appointed ex-presidents Joachim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa to be special envoys to Addis Ababa to help “mediate” the conflict.

Dr Abiy refuses dialogue with the TPLF which he has described as ‘criminals’, ‘junta’ and ‘fugitives from justice.’ On Wednesday, he said the TPLF have attempted to take power “by unconstitutional means.”