The United States anticipates the African Union (AU), under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo to reveal the venue and timing of peace negotiation between the federal government of Ethiopia and The Tigray Regional State under the leadership of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
This comes as the US expresses its concern over delayed peace talks between the warring parties.
The AU and western nations have been attempting to mediate for the past few months. The initiative has not yet yielded results despite numerous visits by US, EU, and African Union officials. Thoughts are strong that negotiations will begin shortly.
At a digital media briefing on August 11, 2022, Molly Phee, assistant secretary for the US Bureau of African Affairs, stated that “We are hopeful that the AU high representative for the talks in Ethiopia, former President Obasanjo, will soon announce a location and a time for those talks.”
The call for urgency came second after Tracy Jacobson, US chargé d’affaires in Addis Ababa, stated that he is looking forward to an announcement soon on when, where and with whom the negotiation takes place,” on July 27, 2022.
A day after the chargé d’affaires statement, Redwan Hussein, national security advisor to the Ethiopian PM, tweeted, “The Ethiopian government is ready for talks anytime anywhere.”
However, after visiting Mekelle for the first time after the war broke out in November 2020, special envoys of the UN, EU, US and ambassadors of Italy, Canada, and the UK echoed TPLF’s precondition to resume basic services for Tigray before sitting for negotiation. The TPLF requested power, telecommunication, banking, border trade and other basic services be restored, which have been halted since the war broke out.
“The federal government does not accept the precondition. The same services have been down in Amhara and Afar regional states. The public service providers have to determine how they can resume the basic services. Assessments on security, safety, and legal aspects must be undertaken before the public enterprises resume the services. These public service providers need time to undertake the assessments and craft regulations on how to resume the services,” Meles Alem (Amb.), spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Reporter.
As the two parties to the conflict maintain clashing interests, including who should be the mediator, the foreign powers have kept pushing to kick off negotiations, referring to the worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray.
In a statement issued on August 4, 2022, the AU Peace and Security Council also requested the AU Commission to mobilize all required resources to further enhance the peace-making efforts of the High Representative. Obasanjo has been shuttling between Mekele and Addis to broker peace.
While the federal government embraced only AU-led negotiation, the TPLF has been insisting on negotiation under the umbrella of western observers and the Kenyan government. However, the western interest groups have finally accepted “the centrality of having one peace process under the undisputed leadership role of the AU’s high representative, Obasanjo,” according to AU’s statement.
Following their meeting with Obasanjo, special envoys from the UN, EU, IGAD, and the US, as well as ambassadors from Italy, Canada, and the UK, “emphasized the need to scale up cooperation and coordination in support of the AU-led process,” according to AU’s statement.
However, neither the conflicting parties nor the High Representative have revealed where or when the negotiations will begin.
Nairobi and Arusha are among potential venues for the negotiations. The delay in the selection of venue is contributing to the delay.