Pledges to repair diplomacy
The European Union (EU) has asked that the Ethiopian government ensure accountability for human rights violations and crimes committed in northern Ethiopia during the two-year war.
Germany’s Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, and France’s Foreign Minister and Minister for Europe, Catherine Colonna, both visited Ethiopia this week. Though the EU did not send officials directly, the two ministers’ visit is considered “face-saving” diplomacy to bridge the rift between the EU and the Ethiopian government over the Tigray war.
Since the Tigray war, the EU has halted all financial assistance to Ethiopia and has urged for stronger sanctions against the Ethiopian federal government. Ethiopia, on the other hand, stated that the EU cannot participate in the Pretoria peace accord, but it has granted the US observer status.
The French and German foreign ministers arrived just one day after China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, arrived in Addis Ababa. President Sahle-Work Zewde, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, and Minister of Justice Gedion Timotheos met with the foreign ministers.
In an effort to re-engage the diplomatic relationship with Ethiopia, the ministers delivered the EU’s message to Ethiopian officials, pressing the government to guarantee accountability for war crimes.
The ministers indicated during their media briefing on Thursday afternoon that conversations had taken place on how to ensure accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, rapes, torture, and extra-judicial killings.
“The Tigray conflict was more than shocking. Now the peace process is starting in Ethiopia. We came to make sure the peace process is durable. A peace agreement cannot last without accountability,” Baerbock said. “We are also here to re-engage again from where we stopped our bilateral engagement with Ethiopia, which stopped before this horrible war situation in Tigray. Humanitarian access is now allowed. But the issue of accountability is also necessary.”
Colonna, the French minister, implied that the Ethiopian government agreed to continue the accountability dialogue with UN human rights authorities and the EU.
“Next to peace agreements and humanitarian access, the third pillar is accountability and investigation into those crimes. All of these are prerequisites. As foreign ministers, we are discussing the issue of ensuring accountability with the Ethiopian government. We will have further meetings with the Ethiopian government, involving human rights representatives. This visit is a starting point for our reengagement,” Colonna said.
In their conversations with officials, the ministers notably mentioned transitional justice, impunity, and accountability.
The ministers also requested that the Joint Investigation Team’s (JIT) recommendations be followed.
They also agreed to hold consultations on the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice’s green paper roadmap for transitional justice.
Since last year, the EU has urged Ethiopia to allow the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia (ICHREE) to enter the country and examine human rights violations. Ethiopian officials claimed that domestic institutions are adequate to achieve accountability and transitional justice.
Ethiopia recently proposed that the UN defund the ICHREE. Ethiopia’s request to defund the commission was, however, rejected by the majority of UN member states, which led to a one-year extension of the committee’s mandate.
Demeke Mekonen, Ethiopia’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, reaffirmed during a joint press conference with the foreign ministers at the Sheraton Addis hotel that the government is working to guarantee accountability with local institutions.
“We understand your concern over accountability issues. As we promised, we have done our best to reach this level, to settle this crisis peacefully, and we are still determined to implement the peace deal in its entirety,” Demeke told the European ministers.
Demeke emphasized that the government had already formed an inter-ministerial committee to respond to the JIT recommendations, which seek responsibility for human rights crimes perpetrated during the Tigray war. He claims that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission is an independent and powerful entity in the country.
“It is critical to verify the concerns on the ground. In addition, we are open to a transparent procedure to address issues concerning our citizens. The ceasefire agreement is being executed, and humanitarian aid is improving. Service restoration and accountability issues are also progressing,” Demeke remarked, emphasizing the government’s obligation to its residents and its commitment to a transparent and prudent response.
As a result, Demeke emphasized that the EU should focus on assisting Ethiopia’s recovery from the devastation caused by the conflict.
The Ethiopian government is preparing a comprehensive reconstruction and rehabilitation plan for conflict-affected areas, according to Demeke. “We expect prompt action and support from the EU as well as the international community to help us achieve this end.”
A constructive support and comprehensive engagement in the coming months is anticipated, not only focusing on this conflict but also transforming development plans, Demeke says. “Ethiopia is ready to engage constructively with the EU.”