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    Global AddisCourting Africa through shuttle diplomacy

    Courting Africa through shuttle diplomacy

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    After eight months of fighting against the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the Tigray region, and an initial victory declared, the Federal Government went on to declare a unilateral ceasefire to “allow farmers in the region to conduct their farming peacefully during this ceasefire, so that they don’t miss the rainy season.”

    Despite international calls for a peaceful end to the war, the war in Tigray raged on for months. It has accordingly resulted in atrocities, death of thousands, injuries, destruction of private and public properties and so on.

    Despite the federal government’s declaration of a ceasefire some two months ago, the war that started in November 2020 has now spread into Afar and Amhara regional states, amplifying the calls for negotiations by the international community.

    In an effort to find a lasting solution to the ongoing war, the US, the European Union (EU) and recently, the African Union (AU), appointed their respective special envoys to the Horn of Africa, to find a way to end the war.

    Even though the AU is a late comer in doing so by appointing former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, the TPLF demanded the AU to first prove its neutrality in the ongoing war. The TPLF accused the AU of “bias” following the appointment of the mediator.

    Three days after Obasanjo’s appointment to “promote peace, security, stability, and political dialogue,” spokesman for the TPLF, Getachew Reda said on Twitter “It would be naive to think that this mission could work. Resolving a crisis requires at least the recognition of the existence, if not the importance, of a problem. We find it difficult to understand how one can expect a constructive role from an organization that has given full meaning to the word partiality.”

    However, the three African members of the Security Council plus one (A3+1), namely: Kenya, Niger and Tunisia, as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, called on the new Parliament to lift the designation of the warring party form the list of terror groups.

    “The Parliament just voted into office that peace cannot be made with a political movement that has been labeled a terrorist group. Parliament should prepare to lift that designation so as to allow for direct contact and negotiation with armed actors opposing the Government,” read the statement by the A3+1.

    Despite persistent calls, however, the government is carving its own path to garner support both from other international partners and neighboring countries.

    To that effect, it can be recalled that back in June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) dispatched his Ministers and other senior officials to various corners of the world.

    The Minister of Transport, Dagmawit Moges travelled to the Netherlands to hold talks with Prime Minister Mark Rutte. The Speaker of the House of the Federation, Adem Farah went to Luxemburg and Belgium, where he met the President of the European Council, Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

    The Minister of Peace, Muferiat Kamil, flew to France while Seleshi Bekele (PhD), the Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy went to Uganda. Ahmed Shide, the Minister of Finance, as well as Berhanu Julla (Gen), the Army Chief of Staff and Temesgen Tiruneh, the Director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) went to Djibouti to deliver a message from PM Abiy.

    In another round of diplomatic shuttle, the Prime Minister himself traveled to Uganda and Rwanda, where he met with the leaders of the two countries.

    Some see this move as the PM being increasingly isolated from his allies in the West, and is currently turning his face to Africa, seeking support among African countries. Furthermore, considering Ethiopia is an ardent supporter of the notion ‘African solutions for African Problems’ in its disagreement over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), its current engagement with African countries might help aid it’s cause.

    Even though little has been publicized about the visit besides the fragmented tweeter threads, both parties stated that the visit by the PM was a success. The Office of the Prime Minister tweeted “Prime Minister Abiy and President Yoweri Museveni held discussions on strengthening bilateral ties and on regional issues of mutual concern,” while the Ugandan President tweeted, “The meeting with Abiy Ahmed ended fruitfully. We agreed to ‘walk together’ on matters regarding strengthening cooperation in bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest.”

    While the government seeks support from regional allies, the international community including the EU, UN and other partners are pushing for a negotiated solution to the ongoing war which incorporates all stakeholders within the framework of the AU peace and security architecture.

    “It should be genuinely inclusive to promote unity, solidarity, cohesion and cooperation among the peoples of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian State. To allow space for that process, we therefore urge the Government of Ethiopia to remove all legal, administrative and security barriers to a political dialogue. No matter what has come to pass, the Government needs to acknowledge the existence of legitimate grievances and to understand that they must be resolved peacefully,” the statement by African members of the Security Council plus one (A3+1) reads.

    Nevertheless, the Ethiopian government on its part downplayed such prescriptions and is engaged in its own diplomatic effort, where the outcome can only be seen in time.

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