US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, says it is difficult to pin down a timeline for an agreement between the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLF-Shane).
The Ambassador, who was an observer during the peace talks between the two parties in Dar es Salaam a few weeks ago, told the US Foreign Affairs Committee that the “talks were difficult.”
Responding to inquiries as to why the second attempt at negotiations between OLF-Shane and the federal government failed, Hammer urged both sides to “compromise and enter political dialogue.”
“Both the government of Ethiopia and OLA need courage to end the conflict peacefully. The talks were difficult. It was difficult to yield what the people of Oromia expected from Dar es Salaam but progress was made. We are committed to try and see a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” said Hammer.
The Ambassador also stated the US is willing to mediate negotiations between the federal government and armed forces based in the Amhara Regional State.
“We also offer our good officers to mediate the conflict in Amhara. There is no military solution,” said Hammer.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s recent allusions to sea access and the ensuing regional tensions also prompted the US Foreign Affairs Committee members to ask whether Ethiopia is considering military force in its quest for a port.
“About Ethiopia’s desire for a seaport, obviously we do not change international borders; almost ever,” said Congressman Brad Sherman.
Hammer echoed the concerns.
“During discussion with PM Abiy last week, I told him he might want to look at the Bolivia and Chile case as an example,” said the Special Envoy.
Hammer stated the Ethiopian PM clarified that Ethiopia is looking into a commercial, peaceful way to achieve sea access.
“We cannot afford another war in the horn,” said Hammer.
Hammer, who served the US government in both Chile and Bolivia, was referring to a commercial agreement that allowed Bolivia access to the Pacific via its neighbor.
Congressman Sherman, however, wants to see financiers like the IMF hold back funding for Ethiopia until the federal government can guarantee the return of IDPs to Western Tigray. The Congressman called plans for a referendum in Western Tigray “phony” and emphasized the need to implement the Pretoria agreement.
“We need to make sure IMF lending is not approved until the Western Tigray issue is addressed,” said Sherman. “This is a government [Ethiopia] that needs your pressure.”
Hammer hinted the proposal is unviable.
“The IMF is very much focused on trying to ensure Ethiopia’s economy does not collapse, which would not be in the interest of the Ethiopian and American peoples,” said Hammer. “The IMF and US Treasury are looking to ensure reforms and privatization in the Ethiopian economy.”
Sherman also wants to see (additional) sanctions imposed on President Isaias Afwerki, among others, until Eritrean troops withdraw from Ethiopian borders.
“Last year, I asked if the USA can impose additional sanctions on Eritrea if they fail to withdraw their troops from Ethiopia. I asked for sanctions on the President himself, and mining that goes on in Eritrea. The assistant secretary said yes. It is a year later, and Eritrean troops are still there. They are committing extrajudicial killings of civilians, sexual enslavement of women, and terrible human rights abuses. So I ask you why we haven’t sanctioned Eritrea, its mining operations and its president,” said Sherman.
The Special Envoy responded that further sanctions of individuals and organizations in Eritrea are up for consideration.