By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
July 17, 2022 (NAIROBI) – The rebel-led government in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region says it is ready to name a negotiator team for peace talks with the government.
“The Government of Tigray will name a team of negotiators taking all the necessary government procedures of decision making,” Professor Kindeya Gebrehiwot, Tigray External Affairs Office representative told the Sudan Tribune.
In a related development, a seven-member peace committee tasked by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to lead peace talks with Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has announced the start of duty.
The team headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, “has started work” to facilitate the peace talks, said Redwan Hussein, Abiy’s national security adviser on Twitter after Tuesday’s meeting.
He said the committee has deliberated and decided on its internal workings on a range of actions and a code of conduct for the planned peace talks.
“Sub-committees have also been formed and responsibilities have been divided within this structure,” said Hussein who also is a member of the government’s negotiating team.
He didn’t give further details including on whether the government will hold face-to-face talks with Tigray leaders.
Disputes on Mediation team
Addis Ababa wants the peace process to be held under the leadership of the African Union.
The TPLF, however, doubts the neutrality of the continental bloc and insists any talks be held under the auspices of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
TPLF leaders voiced concerns about the “proximity” of the AU’s envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, to Abiy.
“The silence of the African Union over the war and the atrocities perpetrated by the forces ranged against us was the betrayal of the foundational principles of the African Union,” the Tigrayan rebels recently said in a statement.
“We have consistently condemned the failure of the African Union chairperson and his High Representative to take a consistent position with the solemn obligation under the Constitutive Act of the Union,” further stressed the armed group.
These unresolved differences between the two warring parties has delayed the talks which were initially planned to commence by the end of last month.
It still remains unclear when and where the talks would be held but a Tigray government official confirmed to Sudan Tribune that discussions are underway to finalize the pre-dialogue pending issues.
“JUMPING THE GUN”
Kindeya further went on to saying that “The regime in Addis Ababa is jumping the gun”. He further added that Addis Ababa sends mixed signals and conflicting messages about peace and war.
“You would hear about peace from the PM, and at the same time labeling/blaming TPLF on every problem in the country including Sudan- Ethiopia recent conflict from the Ministrty of foreign affairs and army preparing for war from the Chief Staff, not to mention the daily war drum from the Amhara Authorities,” Kindeya said.
“If you monitor their medias, you would see the conflicting signals” he said adding “If they are serious about peace, they should come clean,” he added.
The African Union special envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, has recently been in several meetings with TPLF and government leaders in a bid to bring both sides to a negotiating table.
Fighting has relatively slowed in northern Ethiopia since a humanitarian truce was declared at the end of March.
The northern region of Tigray remains in what the UN says is under defacto blockade preventing life-saving medicine and other emergency humanitarian assistance from reaching the war-affected population who are in famine-like conditions, according to huamnaitarian agencies.
Lack of cash, fuel and other essential services is also worsening the humanitarian crisis in the aid dependent, aid workers say.
last month for the first time, the prime minister raised the prospect of possible peace talks with the TPLF in a bid to end the deadly conflict that broke out in northern Ethiopia in November 2020.
On June 14, Abiy Ahmed signaled the possibility that his government would have talks with TPLF, a party which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades.
Later on, the Ethiopian government named seven negotiators chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen to negotiate with the Tigray rebels in a bid to end the 18-month-old bloody conflict in the country’s north.
Aside from Demeke and Redwan, the committee comprises Justice Minister Gedion Timotheos; National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) director general Temesgen Tiruneh; military intelligence chief General Berhanu Bekele; Prosperity Party official Hassan Abdulkadir; and the deputy president of the Amhara region which neighbors Tigray, Getachew Jember.