Ethiopia warring parties face trust test ahead of peace talks

Saturday October 08 2022
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. PHOTO | AFP


Warring parties in Ethiopia face a crucial acid test on trust ahead of a scheduled first face-to-face meeting organised under the African Union.

This week, the continental body invited the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) for “peace talks” beginning this Sunday.

But while the AU told the parties the meeting due in South Africa, it did not clarify other arrangements to the parties, leading to a series of demands from the TPLF and some negotiators suggested they had not been given adequate information on the schedule.

Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta said he will skip the scheduled peace talks between Ethiopian Government and TPLF, citing “conflicts in my schedule.”

Mr Kenyatta, who is President William Ruto’s Peace Envoy for the Horn and Great Lakes region had been invited by the AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat as part of a “troika of negotiators” to help the warring parties establish terms of their dialogue, planned in South Africa from Sunday.

The “troika of negotiators” is made up of Kenyatta, South Africa’s former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and Nigeria's former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who was picked to lead the mediation.


But Mr Kenyatta on Friday wrote to the AU saying: “In the interim and as you consider the possibility for another date, I would be grateful to receive further clarity on the structure and modalities of the talks, including but not limited to the rules of engagement for all the interlocutors invited.”

Ethiopian soldiers

Ethiopian soldiers transport an anti-aircraft gun in Shewa Robit in December 2021. A truce lapsed and fighting resumed against the TPLF last month. PHOTO | AFP

TPLF said they were ready to attend the meeting, pledging readiness to a peaceful cessation of hostilities. But TPLF Leader Debretsion Gebremichael said “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”.

The rebel leader says he needs assurance his negotiators who will not be harassed as they depart Ethiopia, most likely through Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa. The routes between Tigray region and Addis Ababa are mostly blockaded with only a filter of access allowed for limited humanitarian movements.