By Getahun Tsegaye @GetahunTsegay12
Addis Abeba – The Ethiopian government , through the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser, Ambassador Redwan Hussain, expressed its dismay at the “course chosen by team of envoys & Ambassadors in handling the matter when in Mekelle.”
The government’s complaint came in the backdrop of a meeting held on 02 August between Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), President of Tigray regional states and U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer, European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa Annette Weber, UN Under Secretary General & Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Hanna Tetteh as well as Ambassadors of Canada, Italy, and the Deputy Head of Mission of the U.K, which took place in Tigray’s capital city, Mekelle.
Redwan’s statement accused the high level western diplomats of failing “to press for unequivocal commitment for peace talks, rather indulging in appeasement and fulfilling preconditions placed by the other party.” Redwan’s debriefing to the diplomats came after the later released a consensus statement that “a swift restoration of electricity, telecom, banking, and other basic services in Tigray is essential for the people of Tigray, as recognized in earlier discussions with the Ethiopian Government.”
In what came as a stark difference with the western diplomats’ consensus statement asking for swift restoration of services after securing a letter of guarantee from the regional government of Tigray, the federal government stated its position on the preludes of “creating enabling conditions.”
“Regarding restoration of services, the will of the government has been reaffirmed and preludes for that have been reiterated: i.e. creating enabling conditions and semblance of peace by beginning the talks,” Ambassador Redwan said, and further blamed the western delegation for focusing on the preconditions of the TPLF when they were supposed to focus on the peace talks.
Ethiopia’s position on the resumption of basic services also disregard’s Tigray’s repeatedly stated position. The region’s President Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) has most recently told the local Tigray TV that Tigray wanted to end the war with peaceful resolution, but to hold peace talks certain preconditions must be met initially. Among others, “basic services must be restored,” he said
The other issues the federal government disputed with the special envoys was on their call for “unfettered humanitarian access to Tigray and the Afar and Amhara neighboring regions…” and said the call “rehashed the saga”
“Their joint statement rehashed the saga of “unfettered humanitarian access” which has already been long addressed. No limit on the number of flights; none either on the number of trucks carrying aid. The issue of fuel has also been addressed and hailed by all.”
However, the government’s rebuttal comes in sharp contrast with repeated complaints from humanitarian agencies on the ground stating the lack of fuel in Tigray as the latest hurdle hampering the distribution of humanitarian aid from warehouses in Mekelle, the capital. “USAID’s partner-run warehouses in the Tigray region are full of food & other life-saving aid. Humanitarians need unrestricted access to fuel, cash and public services to transport it to those in need & continue saving lives,” said the U.S. embassy in Addis Abeba in a tweet on 03 August. Similarly the UNOCHA’s situation reort update from the month of July stated that “lack of cash and fuel in Tigray [is] heavily impacting implementation of food distributions. There is a delay in completing food distribution for planned rounds due to operational and logistical challenges.” The report also said fuel shortage in Amhara and Somali regions was “impacting lifesaving operations.”
The government’s disappointment was reflected in the last sentence of Redwan’s statement in which he concluded that “the AU is the only channel and has been reiterated in no uncertain terms once again.” However, it is not directly clear as to what triggered this rebuttal.
In the joint statement, the US and EU envoys said that they encourage “the launch of talks between the Federal Government of Ethiopia (FGoE) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) under the African Union’s auspices.” Insisting on the necessity of “political dialogue” to resolve the civil war and achieve “a durable peace,” the envoys said they “welcomed the public commitment by both parties to engage in talks, and expressed their readiness to support African-led mediation.”
However, the government’s insistence on the AU as the only mediator had faced resistance from the government of Tigray.
In an official letter addressed to President Macky Sall, Chairperson of the African Union and President of Senegal on 14 June, Debretsion Gebrechichael (PhD), President of Tigray state, expressed reservations in the AU led process. “The silence of the African Union over the war and the atrocities perpetrated by the forces ranged against us was a betrayal of the Foundational Principles of the Union. We have consistently condemned the failure of the African Union Chairperson and his High Representative to take a position consistent with their solemn obligations under the Constitutive Act of the Union, the Protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council, and a host of other commitments entered into. In the considered view of the People and Government of Tigray the leadership of the African Union Commission has yet to redeem its failures and restore our trust,” the letter said.
Furthermore, Getachew Reda, advisor to Tigray’s President Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD) and a member of TPLF’s central committee, said that “It would be very irresponsible for us to submit all negotiating processes to the AU,” and that the talks should involve Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta.
On 12 July the seven-member peace negotiation team held its first meeting on 12 July. “The peace alternative main committee held its meeting today 12 July. [The committee) has discussed and decided on its own course of action and code of ethics for the discussions to be held under the leadership of the African Union. By organizing sub-committees it has also divided responsibilities and began its work,” Amb. Redwan said.
It followed after the announcement by the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) on 27 June, the seven member team that is expected to conduct peace talks with Tigrayan authorities is chaired by Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and is composed of six other members namely: Ambassador Redwan Hussien, Gedion Timothewos (PhD), Minister of Justice, Temesgen Tiruneh, Director General of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Lt. Gen. Berhanu Bekele, Chief of Military Intelligence office (former head of the Republican Guard), Ambassador Hassan Abdulkadir, Coordinator, Prosperity Party’s Democratic System Office, and Dr. Getachew Jember, Deputy President of Amhara regional state.
The ruling party’s team was announced shortly after the Minister of Justice Gedion said that the ruling party’s executive and central committee meetings “put a direction” to peace alternatives “in a manner that respects the constitution and national interest” of the country and “facilitated by the African Union.”
Subsequently, On 18 July, Getachew Reda, the spokesperson of Tigrayan Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), the party administering the Tigray regional state, has said that Tigray “will be ready to send a delegation to Nairobi… and have established a team with high-ranking members.”
This week’s visit by the special envoys of the US, EU and the UN as well as Ambassadors to Mekelle marked the first high-level visit by western countries aimed at efforts for peaceful resolution of Ethiopia’s 20-old civil war. However, the government latest rebuttal casts shadow over the prospects of a possible peace talk that has not yet taken a meaningful step. As of the publishing of this news, the special envoys have not commented on the government’s statement from last night. AS