AU invites Tigray, Ethiopia leaders for peace talks in South Africa
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 6, 2022 (NAIROBI) – Ethiopia’s government on Wednesday said it has accepted an invitation from the African Union to take part in peace talks aimed at ending a nearly two-year-long ongoing civil war in the country’s northern Tigray region.
“The African Union has sent an invitation for peace talks. The government of Ethiopia has accepted this invitation” Redwan Hussein, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s National Security Advisor, said in a tweet Wednesday morning.
The invitation is “in line with our principled position regarding the peaceful resolution of the conflict and the need for talks without preconditions” he added.
African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat extended the invitation to the peace talks in a letter sent to the leaders of the Tigray region and the Ethiopian federal government.
According to a copy of the invitation letter obtained by Sudan Tribune, the AU-led peace talks are scheduled to take place in South Africa from Sunday, October 8, 2022.
The letter says the talks are expected to deliberate on the guiding principles, agenda issues, modalities, format and timelines for the negotiated settlement aimed at laying the foundation for a structured and sustained mediation between the two warring parties.
Tigray’s leaders who recently accepted an AU-led peace process however have not yet confirmed if they will accept the AU invitation.
Officials at Tigray External Affairs Office did not immediately respond to Sudan Tribune’s request for confirmation.
The invitation comes more than a month after intense fighting resumed in north Ethiopia, bringing an end to a fragile truce that had been in place since March.
Fresh fighting between Tigrayan and the federal Ethiopian army, backed by Eritrean forces, resumed on August 24 dashing hopes of ending the bloody war through dialogue.
Sudan Tribune has learned that the planned peace talks in South Africa will be facilitated and led by Olusegun Obasanjo, AU special envoy for the Horn of Africa, with the support of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and the former South Africa vice president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
This week, Washington said its special envoy to the Horn of Africa region, Mike Hammer, would be making his second visit to Ethiopia after a previous visit in September.
“Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa (SEHOA) Mike Hammer will travel to Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia October 3-18, 2022,” U.S. Department of State said in a statement on Monday.
“Special Envoy Hammer is returning to the region as part of ongoing U.S. diplomatic efforts to achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities in northern Ethiopia and support the launch of African Union-led peace talks”
In Nairobi, Special Envoy Hammer will meet with Kenyan government officials, international partners, NGOs, and others involved in regional efforts to build peace and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Following up on discussions on the situation in Northern Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa held in Washington on September 27 during the U.S.-South Africa Working Group on African and Global Issues, Special Envoy Hammer will travel to Pretoria to meet with South African government officials to advance efforts in support of the African Union-led mediation effort.
In Addis Ababa, Special Envoy Hammer will meet with the Ethiopian government and African Union officials.
He will also meet with UN officials and other partners delivering humanitarian assistance in response to the northern Ethiopia conflict and providing drought relief.
“Special Envoy Hammer will stress the importance of accountability on human rights issues in resolving the conflict and achieving national reconciliation”
Hammer is also expected to engage in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in support of efforts under the AU’s auspices to reach an agreement that addresses the interests of all parties and contributes to a more peaceful and prosperous region.