Ethiopia's warring sides invited to peace talks in South Africa
ADDIS ABABA - The government of Ethiopia has welcomed an invitation by the African Union the mediation with the Tigray regional government, which boosts the process to restore peace in northern Ethiopia after over 23 months of hostilities in the Horn of Africa nation.
On Wednesday, the Ethiopian administration confirmed the invitation by the African Union, arguing that it was "consistent" with previous stands over the Tigray conflict, despite the delayed talks with authorities in Mekelle, even in the midst of bombardments by Ethiopian Air Force.
Redwan Hussien, Ethiopia's National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, confirmed the latest development but insisted that there will be no preconditions for the talks to succeed. He maintained that Ethiopia has been for a long time called for peace talks.
"The AU has issued an invitation for peace talks. The government of Ethiopia has accepted this invitation which is in line with our principled position regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the need to have talks without preconditions," said the federal minister.
The agreement comes amid heightened operations in the Tigray region by Ethiopian National Defense Forces and Eritrean troops, who have been accused of perpetuating mass murder and massacre in different parts of Tigray. Fresh fighting erupted in August after Ethiopian troops bombed Mekelle.
Eritrean soldiers are under pressure to vacate from the Tigray region, with authorities in Mekelle accusing them of " infringement of our rights". The Tigray People's Liberation Front [TPLF] which is at loggerheads with the national army, has vacated the Amhara region to safeguard borders in the north.
On Tuesday, at least 50 people were killed following an airstrike in Western Tigray, leading to condemnation from members of the international community. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2019, has remained mum over the hostilities.
Rashid Abdi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa affairs believes that African Union mediator Olusegun Obasanjo may not be the right candidate to negotiate for peace in Tigray, adding that immediate former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta should assume the role.
"Obasanjo is not an honest broker. He cannot mediate the Tigray war. Imposing him will only make things worse. He must be off-ramped for sake of peace in Ethiopia. Find a credible honest broker," he says. "Kenyatta can take full charge. He is trusted by all parties."
Kenya's new President William Ruto recently said a " troubled Ethiopia" is " dangerous" to the stable Horn of Africa while insisting that Nairobi will be fully involved. Ruto has already appointed his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta, but the former president is yet to confirm his availability.