Africa: AU PSC Meets On Ethiopia Ahead of UN’s – Blinken, Guteress Discuss Need for Immediate Cessation of Hostilities, Withdrawal of Eritrean Forces
Addis Abeba- — The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is holding a session today to receive a briefing on the AU-led peace process for Ethiopia.
Today’s meeting “was not initially included in the monthly program of work of the Council,” according to Amani Africa. It comes in the immediate wake of yet another “private meeting” by the UN Security Council (UNSC) scheduled to take place later today under the “Peace and Security in Africa” agenda item.
The AU PSC’s last meeting on Ethiopia was held on 4 August 2022, during which AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, briefed on his activities in bringing a peaceful resolution to the war in Ethiopia. Obasanjo’s 04 August briefing was the second since he addressed the Council on 10 February and came after two sessions scheduled to take place on 04 May and on 05 July were both cancelled.
Ahead of today’s meetings by the AU and the UN Security Councils, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke yesterday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
According to the readout, during the discussion, Secretary Blinken expressed “his grave concern about the intensification of fighting in northern Ethiopia and the risk of mass atrocities, Secretary Blinken underscored the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unhindered humanitarian access, good faith engagement in the AU-led talks next week, and for Eritrea to withdraw its forces from northern Ethiopia.”
Today’s UNSC meeting was requested by the A3 members of the Council – Gabon, Ghana and Kenya – on 17 October, and comes two days after the call by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat for “an immediate, unconditional ceasefire and resumption of humanitarian services” in the Tigray region, which was welcomed by the Tigray regional state authorities who said they “are ready to abide by an immediate cessation of hostilities.”
The federal government, however, issued a statement on 17 October in which it said it will continue to take “defensive measures” against “repeated attack of the TPLF and its active collusion with hostile foreign powers”. The federal government also said it was “imperative” that it “assumes immediate control of all airports, other federal facilities and installations in the region”, it also called on civilians and humanitarian operators to distance themselves from Tigrayan forces’ military assets, signaling plans for complete takeover of the Tigray regional state.
There has since been a marked escalation in the war as the allied forces of Ethiopian and Eritrean defense forces as well as the neighboring Amhara regional state forces are reportedly pushing to dislodge the Tigrayn forces from the Tigray regional state. On Tuesday the federal government said it has taken control of Shire, Alamata and Korem “without fighting in urban areas” and has criticized the growing intentional concerns for civilians as “unwarranted.”
But according to the UN, some 210,000 newly displaced people who are sheltered in Zelazele “are in a dire situation with the vast majority sleeping in open areas directly exposed to cold weather and other protection risks.” The IDPs are civilians displaced from Tahitay Adiabo and Sheraro in Zelazele of Northwestern Tigray. The UN also aid that “civilians waiting to receive much-needed humanitarian assistance came under fire on 14 October, which caused injuries and loss of life.”
On October 17, Antonio Guterres issued an unprecedented statement in which he warned that the situation in Ethiopia was “spiraling out of control.”
“The social fabric is being ripped apart & civilians are paying a horrific price. Hostilities in Tigray must end now – including the immediate withdrawal and disengagement of Eritrean armed forces from Ethiopia,” the Secretary General said.
Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the United Nations, rebuffed the SG’s statement as “unwarranted” which failed to reflect the reality.
“None of the selected and overly exaggerated assertions reflects the reality,” the Ambassador tweeted. He also said the statement “undermines the AU-led peace efforts and the ability of the UN to play positive and constructive role.”
The meetings today by the AU and UN Security Councils take place ahead of the rescheduled AU-led peace talks on Monday 24 October in South Africa. On Thursday, Ethiopia said that the AU “has informed us that the Peace talks is set for 24 Oct, 2022 to be held in South Africa” and “confirmed” its participation. There is no statement from Tigrayan authorities on the rescheduled meeting, and the AU has not yet commented on the details.
This is the second attempt by the continental organization to organize peace talks in South Africa in as many weeks. In a letter dated 01 October and sent to Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), President of Tigray regional State, inviting him to “peace talks” scheduled to take place in South Africa from 08 October 2022, erroneously mentioned as Sunday. Both the federal government and Tigray regional state said they accepted the invitation.
The meeting by AU-PSC is expected to issues a communique expressing concern about the resumption of hostilities and the toll on civilians, as well as to “welcome the 15 October statement of the AU Commission Chairperson and his strong call for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire and the resumption of humanitarian services”, according to Amani Africa. AS