Ethiopia: AU calls on warring parties to recommit to peace

Ethiopia: AU calls on warring parties to recommit to peace

The African Union (AU) on Sunday urged the warring factions in the Ethiopian conflict to rejoin peace talks as violence escalates in the besieged Tigray region.

The town of Shire in northwest Tigray came under shelling for several days during a joint offensive by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops against Tigrayan rebels, resulting in several civilian casualties.

A member of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an NGO that provides disaster relief, was killed and another wounded in one such attack on Friday, killing two more civilians, the IRC said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has joined the United States and other Western countries in raising concerns about the escalating violence and its impact on civilians. He called on both parties to negotiate peace.

Ethiopia (AFP – Aude GENET)

The head of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, also said the escalation of violence was “a serious concern”.

“The President urges the parties to renew their commitment to dialogue under their agreement to convene direct talks in South Africa,” he added in a statement.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigrayan authorities accepted an invitation from the AU for talks, but negotiations, which were due to start in South Africa last weekend, did not take place.

They were to be led by AU Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo, former South African Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Diplomats have hinted that logistical problems are partly behind their postponement.

The latest fighting in Tigray came as US special envoy Mike Hammer arrived in Addis Ababa to urge an end to this war between Ethiopia, its allies and rebels led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which has been going on for almost two Years.

The town of Shire, about 40 km south of Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, had been “under continuous airstrikes and heavy artillery all week,” a local aid worker told AFP.

AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat on February 5, 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AFP - Tony KARUMBA)
AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat on February 5, 2022 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (AFP – Tony KARUMBA)

An IRC member was killed there as the NGO was distributing food “to WFP beneficiaries, including vulnerable mothers and children,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said on Sunday.

“WFP condemns any deliberate targeting of humanitarian activities and urges all parties to the conflict to respect and protect humanitarian operations and personnel in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” a spokesman told AFP.WFP in Ethiopia.

Referring to the “recent indiscriminate attacks” by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, United States Agency for Humanitarian Aid (USAID) director Samantha Power judged that “the risk of atrocities and additional deaths is increasing, particularly around the Shire.”

Fighting resumed in Tigray in August after a five-month hiatus, daunting hopes for a resolution to a conflict that has killed scores of civilians and has been marred by atrocities on all sides.

    (AFP/Archive - Yasuyoshi Chiba)
(AFP/Archive – Yasuyoshi Chiba)

The return to war has also halted needed aid in Tigray, where millions have been displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands are near starvation, according to the UN.

The conflict erupted in November 2020 when Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy sent troops against the TPLF, the ruling party in Tigray, which he accuses of orchestrating attacks on military camps.

The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for decades before Abiy came to power in 2018.


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