Peace talks to end Ethiopia’s devastating Tigray conflict have begun in South Africa, a South African government spokesman said on Tuesday. This is the highest level effort to end two years of fighting that may have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya said the African Union-led talks that started on Tuesday are expected to continue until Sunday. Delegations from the Ethiopian government and Tigray authorities arrived in South Africa this week. There was no immediate comment from either side.
“These talks are in line with South Africa’s foreign policy objectives of a secure and conflict-free continent,” Magwenya said.
Former Nigerian President and AU envoy Olesegun Obasanjo, former South African Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta facilitate the talks with encouragement from the United States, including the envoy special Mike Hammer recovered the tabby delegation in a US army. plane on Sunday.
The conflict has drastically changed the fortunes of Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who went to war with the northern Tigray region less than a year after receiving the award for making peace with neighboring Eritrea. The Eritrean government has long viewed the rulers of Tigray, who ruled Ethiopia for nearly three decades before Abiy came to power, as enemies.
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Peace talks – led by Ethiopian national security adviser Redwan Hussein and Tigray forces spokesman Getachew Reda and General Tsadkan Gebretensae – begin as Ethiopian and Eritrean-allied forces take control of some urban areas of Tigray in recent days.
These include the towns of Axum, Adwa and now Adigrat, according to a humanitarian source who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The Tigray region of more than 5 million people is once again cut off from the world by fresh fighting that began in late August after months of lull in the conflict that allowed fighters – including two of the continent’s largest armies African – to regroup.
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All of the fighters committed abuses, according to United Nations human rights investigators who recently singled out the Ethiopian government for using “civilian starvation” as a weapon of war. According to an as yet unpublished study shared by its authors with The Associated Press this month, babies in Tigray are dying in their first month of life at four times the rate before war cut off access to most services. medical care.
Movements of relief convoys have “remained at a standstill” since August 24, the UN said this week. “Please government, please (Tigray authorities), for the sake of your own people, come to a positive conclusion or at least open a channel of peace,” the refugee leader said on Tuesday. of the United Nations, Filippo Grandi, during a visit to neighboring Kenya.
The war that broke out in November 2020 has also spread to neighboring Amhara and Afar regions of Ethiopia, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk. Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s economy, once one of the fastest growing in Africa, has suffered.
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Academics and health workers have estimated that hundreds of thousands have been killed by conflict and deprivation, and the United States has begun warning of half a million casualties.
“Too many lives have already been lost in this conflict,” the chairman and senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote with several colleagues in an open letter to the Ethiopian prime minister this week, urging “a cessation of hostilities and a unimpeded humanitarian access before and throughout the negotiations.”