Ethiopia-Tigray peace talks postponed as Uhuru Kenyatta expresses concerns

, for Tv47 Digital October 08, 2022, 10:14 AM
Workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deliver lifesaving medical supplies into Mekelle, in Tigray region, Ethiopia January 26, 2022. Picture taken January 26, 2022.

African Union-led peace talks proposed for this weekend to try to end a two-year-old conflict in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region have been delayed for logistical reasons, Tigray forces and two diplomatic sources said on Friday.

Ethiopia's government and Tigray forces said on Wednesday that they accepted the AU's invitation to talks in South Africa, which would be the first formal negotiations between the two sides since war broke out in November 2020.

The conflict in Africa's second most populous nation pits the federal government against regional forces led by a party that used to dominate national politics. Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions uprooted by the violence.

At least five people were killed and 37 more wounded on Friday in an air strike about 30 km (18 miles) outside Tigray's capital, Mekelle, said Kibrom Gebreselassie, the director of the hospital that received the victims.

Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane and the prime minister's spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the incident.

The diplomatic sources, who asked not to be named, said the postponement of this weekend's talks was related to organising logistics and that a new date had not yet been scheduled.

Getachew Reda, a spokesperson for Tigray forces, said the AU did not consult Tigrayan leaders before sending out the invitations.

"You don't just expect people to show up on a certain date as if this was some kind of get-together," he said in a text message.

Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Ebba Kalondo, an AU spokesperson, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about this.

Despite the agreement to hold talks, various parties have voiced concerns.

Some activists from Amhara, a region bordering Tigray that has fought alongside the federal government in the war, oppose the talks.

"The current AU-led peace talks process excludes Amharas - the largest affected group in the war," the Amhara Association of America, a lobby group, said in a statement.

Uhuru's concerns

In a letter to AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, former President Uhuru Kenyatta - who was to be among the panelists in the talks presided over by former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo in South Africa - said he will not be able to attend due to prior personal engagements.

"However, in the interim and as you consider the possibility for another date for the peace talks, 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. This clarification would greatly help in preparations for my engagement and participation," Uhuru letters to Mahamat reads in part.

Nonetheless, Uhuru said that among the most urgent issues that should addressed even as the peace talks continue will be the immediate and "unconditional" cessation of hostilities.

"This silencing of guns is particularly important in order to avail the right conditions for the consultations and negotiations while alleviating human suffering and allowing for continued access to humanitarian assistance," Uhuru added.

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