The US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, is participating in African Union-led peace talks in South Africa that are aimed at ending hostilities in Ethiopia.
This despite demonstrations in the US by Ethiopians and Eritreans who are accusing the superpower of interfering in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.
Hammer has been a regular feature in efforts to bring warring factions to the negotiation table.
Before the talks, he held meetings with SA officials; Kenyan President William Ruto; former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, one of the negotiators; civil society and government representatives in Ethiopia and Tigray.
Hammer is attending as an observer along with some officials from the United Nations (UN) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
IGAD is an eight-country trade bloc in Africa comprising Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea, which is blamed for fighting alongside Ethiopia’s federal government in the conflict. Somalia and Ethiopia are also part of IGAD.
“Our special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, is in South Africa to observe and to participate in the AU-led talks along with the United Nations and IGAD, and to support efforts to have an immediate cessation of hostilities, to deliver humanitarian assistance to all Ethiopians in need, to prevent further human rights abuses and atrocities, and to secure Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia,” said US State Department spokesperson Ned Price.
Since the outbreak of the civil war in Ethiopia two years ago, demonstrations have been held in front of the White House in Washington DC on Sundays.
Eritreans and Ethiopians have been marching, accusing the US of taking sides in the conflict.
The two-year-long civil war entered a mini-truce stage in March to allow much-needed aid to trickle into Tigray.
However, the truce was broken in August with the resumption of armed conflict on a more intense scale, forcing the AU and international partners to push harder for talks.
World Health Organisation director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian government minister who is of Tigrayan origin, said this week that about five million out of seven million people in Tigray relied on aid because of the conflict and climate change impacts.
His plea drew the attention of the world, but Ethiopia accused him of sensationalising the matter.
The US Foreign Relations Committee wrote an open letter to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali as talks were set to start in Pretoria, urging him to allow peace, restoration and accountability.
“We are hopeful that the AU-led talks will signal an end to the violence that has ravaged northern Ethiopia for two years and pave the way for holding those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities to account. A peaceful resolution to the conflict is imperative and we urge you to facilitate this critical step toward peace by immediately ceasing hostilities,” it wrote.
However, the Ethiopian Mission to the European Union said in a tweet that the crisis in Tigray demanded a long-lasting solution and “not a quick fix” at a time when the blanket call was for an immediate end to the war.