Kenya’s retired President Uhuru Kenyatta is scheduled to begin his role in the Ethiopia conflict mediation even as confusion reigned on the existence of the date for the African Union sponsored talks.
Ethiopia on Wednesday said it had accepted an invitation to attend peace talks led by the African Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo, in South Africa.
Redwan Hussein, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, “The GoE (Government of Ethiopia) has accepted this invitation which is in line with our principled position regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the need to have talks without preconditions.”
The leaked invitation letter said President Kenyatta and South Africa's former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka would serve as part of a trio of mediators known as the ‘Troika of negotiators’. This will be the first time Kenyatta will be engaged in regional matters after his successor William Ruto named him a special envoy for the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region. His office did not immediately confirm his attendance.
But the letter said the parties had been invited to talks from “Sunday, 8 October 2022” to deliberate on “the guiding principles, agenda issues, modalities, format and timelines for the negotiated settlement…” October 8 will be a Saturday, however, and the African Union did not immediately clarify whether this was a typo.
The meeting is part of AU’s push to have parties choose dialogue. The Ethiopian government has been fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) since November 2020 and accuses the rebel group of being terrorists. The parties have, however, faced pressure to hold talks, even though they resumed fighting three weeks ago.
Ebba Kalondo, the African Union Commission Spokesperson, declined to comment on the logistical arrangements behind the planned talks, but told The EastAfrican they were on track to hold face to face meetings.
“We will communicate details as and when appropriate in consultation with the parties,” she said.
TPLF on Wednesday said it was ready to attend the meeting, and expressed willingness for a peaceful negotiated cessation of hostilities.
However, they made demands, with TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael saying that “an auspicious start” to the talks must be preceded with clarification on whether there will be additional actors invited as participants, observers or guarantors and what roles the international community will play. He added that that they needed further clarification on “the logistics, such as travel arrangements for our negotiating team.”