News Analysis: Ethiopia peace committee wants “enabling environment” after ceasefire to resume basic services in Tigray

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Members of the ruling party Main Peace Committee. From Left: Ambassador Redwan, FM Demeke, and Justice Minister Gedion. Picture: MoFA

Addis Abeba – The Main Peace Committee established by the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) briefed members of the diplomatic community including Ambassadors based in Addis Abeba today about “the peace process that the Ethiopian government has been pursuing so far.”

“The Committee, in its discussion has emphasized the imperative of alleviating the suffering of citizens in the conflict affected parts of the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regional states. Towards that end and in order to ensure a sustained provision of humanitarian aid as well as to facilitate the resumption of basic services and also to resolve the conflict peacefully; the Committee has underscored that there is a need to conclude a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible,” the Committee said a statement released after the briefing.

On 28 July, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s National Security Adviser, Ambassador Redwan Hussain, briefed Horn of Africa Special Envoys of the UN, the EU & the USA as well as Ambassadors of US, France, Germany, Italy and UK to Ethiopia and told them that the Federal Government was “ready to talks anytime, anywhere,” and that “talks should begin without preconditions.”

After receiving the green light to travel to Mekelle, 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. traveled to Mekelle on 02 August where they met and held discussions with Tigray regional state president Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD).

In a joint statement issued after the trip, the special envoys said they agree “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.” The Special envoys also brought a letter from President Debretsion “to be passed to the Government of Ethiopia providing security guarantees for those who need to work to restore services.”

However, the federal government expressed its dismay at the “course chosen by team of envoys & Ambassadors in handling the matter when in Mekelle.” It also accused the special envoys of failing “to press for unequivocal commitment for peace talks, rather indulging in appeasement and fulfilling preconditions placed by the other party.”

Stating its position on the restoration of services, the government said that its will “has been reaffirmed and preludes for that have been reiterated: i.e. creating enabling conditions and semblance of peace by beginning the talks.”

In the briefing held today, the Main Peace Committee reiterated the government’s position and noted that “to facilitate an expedited resumption of basic services within the enabling environment that would be created once a ceasefire is concluded, all necessary preparations are being undertaken.” It also said all efforts were “being exerted in collaboration with the African Union so that it would be possible to determine the venue and time for talks and to begin peace talks quickly and to conclude a ceasefire agreement shortly.”

in addition to the divergent asks on the status of the resumption of basic services, questions remain on the role of the African Union as the only mediator

However, the federal government’s position on the resumption of basic services dismisses Tigray’s repeatedly stated position on the non-negotiability of the resumption of basic services. The region’s President Debretsion has 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.

Background

Ambassador Redwan Hussien, Security Advisor of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, said on 12 July that 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.

Announced 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 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.”

But in addition to the divergent asks on the status of the resumption of basic services, questions remain on the role of the African Union as the only mediator. The ruling party continued insisting that peace talks should be held under the “facilitation of the African Union.” Tigray on the other hand expressed its dissatisfaction on the AU on more than one occasion. But its clear stance came when, in a letter addressed to President Macky Sall, Chairperson of the African Union and President of Senegal on 14 June, President Debretsion openly expressed Tigray’s 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. AS




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