Kenyan Minister Raychelle Omamo arrives in Ethiopia for talks

Thursday September 02 2021
Kenya's Raychelle Omamo with Ethiopia's Birtukan Ayano.

Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo with Birtukan Ayano, the Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs, in Addis Ababa on September 2, 2021. PHOTO | COURTESY


Ethiopia on Thursday invited Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo in a continuing series of shuttle diplomacy by Addis Ababa, in the face of an ongoing conflict in Tigray.


A dispatch from the Ethiopian Embassy said Ms Omamo will meet her host and counterpart Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs.

She touched down at Bole International Airport on Thursday where she was received by Birtukan Ayano, the Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs.

“The Foreign [Affairs] ministers will deliberate on bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest,” a dispatch said, without specifying the exact issues to be discussed.

“Ethiopia and Kenya enjoy 58 years of strong strategic partnership. Kenya’s solidarity with Ethiopia, during the former’s tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, is one example of this partnership.”

Kenya's Raychelle Omamo and Ethiopia's Birtukan Ayano.

Kenya's Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo is received by Birtukan Ayano, the Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs, when she arrived in Addis Ababa's Bole International Airport on September 2, 2021. PHOTO | COURTESY

The meeting came as Addis Ababa engaged renewed shuttle diplomacy with its neighbours to seek support for the ongoing Nile dam dispute with Egypt, as well as regional support against what Ethiopia sees as unwarranted pressure from the West to accommodate the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited Uganda and Rwanda where he separately met with Presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame. The two countries, alongside Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, form the upper riparian zone for the Nile River whose water Ethiopia contributes most, but is consumed most by Egypt and Sudan, the lower riparian countries.

Nile dam dispute

Both Egypt and Sudan have been uncomfortable with Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD), which has been erected on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia’s Benshangul-Gumuz regional state in the west of the country.

Put up through local fundraising, the $5 billion project could produce up to 6000MW of power at full function.

But Egypt argues the filling of the dam could reduce the amount of water reaching its soil, affecting its agriculture and domestic consumption.

In July, at the UN Security Council, Egypt called the dam an “existential threat.”

Kenya, the current non-permanent member of the Council until December 2022, warned against inflammatory remarks, but called on the parties to give the African Union a chance to mediate the dispute.

“Kenya recognises the critical importance of the principle of subsidiarity in this matter and recommends it to the Security Council,” Dr Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, told the Council’s session on the Nile, on July 7.

“We call on the parties to recommit to negotiating in good faith within the AU-led process in a spirit fired by our shared dream of building a more united and prosperous Africa by 2063.

“Kenya has every confidence that our Egyptian, Ethiopian and Sudanese brothers will make the principle of ‘African solutions for African challenges’ a reality.”

Tigray conflict

Back in Ethiopia, the country has also been under pressure to rescind its stance on the TPLF, once a ruling party but now considered a terrorist group.

Dr Abiy last week hosted South Sudanese President Salva Kiir who publicly declared opposition to “external interference” in Ethiopia.

On Tuesday, Dr Abiy spoke on phone with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh.

Although Western countries have pressured Ethiopia to choose ceasefire and organise dialogue with TPLF, Kenya said that decision must be led by Ethiopians, supported by the African Union.

“Ethiopia must not tap into its glorious history to solely grasp the grievances that lead to anger and hatred.

“Instead, Ethiopians must find in their past the prominent lessons of compromise, unity and peace,” Dr Kimani said last week during a UN Security Council session on Tigray.

Kenya suggested Ethiopia must be ready to make a “painful compromise” such as rescinding the labelling of TPLF as a terrorist group and engaging in formal negotiations.

“Peace cannot be made with a political movement that has been labelled as a terrorist group. Parliament should prepare to lift this designation to allow for direct contact and negotiation with armed actors opposing the government.”

Kenya’s statement was endorsed by other African members in the Council—Tunisia and Niger—as well as the Caribbean Representative St Vincent and Grenadines. The African plus Caribbean representatives are often known as A3+1.