The amalgamation of the peace-brokers is expected to fulfill the interests of both parties to the conflict, bridging the disparity between the federal government’s term to negotiate only under AU auspices and the TPLF’s under western watch. Nonetheless, other differences between the two sides persist, delaying the start of a much-anticipated negotiation aimed at ending nearly two years of standoffs between Ethiopia and Tigray state.
After visiting Mekelle on Tuesday, special envoys from the UN, EU, and the US and ambassadors from Italy, Canada, and the UK convened with PAPS officials on August 4, 2022, at the AU headquarters. Though present in Addis Ababa, Olusegun Obasanjo, AU high representative for the Horn of Africa and leading the negotiation team on Ethiopia, did not travel to Mekelle with the special envoys and ambassadors. Obasanjo, who has been trying to create a level ground between the two warring parties for several months now, was disapproved by the TPLF for a “lack of progress and impartiality.”
However, Bankole Adeoye, former Foreign Service officer of the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and who was elected AU-PAPS commissioner during the 35th AU summit last January, reiterated on Thursday “AU’s complete confidence and support and welcomed his tireless efforts for peace in Ethiopia.”
Obasanjo reports to Bankole.
Under the new agreement, Obasanjo and the PAPS team work with the UN Under-Secretary General and Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Hanna Tetteh, European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber, US Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, and other representatives.
If the negotiation materializes, Obasanjo will lead all the interest groups and the conflicting parties.
“AU is the legitimate body to oversee the peace talks. But the EU, US and others are also interest groups. Though the federal government does not want these, PAPS decision to bring those interest groups onboard is a wise decision to bridge the governments and TPLF’s terms. The special envoys will press PAPS to accommodate the western interest groups, “said an official close to the issue, who spoke to The Reporter on conditions of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the developments.
Though the special envoys who traveled to Tigray for the first time after the war broke out in November 2020 echoed TPLF’s conditionality of pressing the federal government to resume basic services like power, telecom, banking, and border trades, the federal government fired-back saying negotiations should begin without any conditionality.
Redwan Hussein, national security advisor to the PM, complained that the special envoys are entertaining TPLF’s interests. “They [the special envoys] failed to press for unequivocal commitment for peace talks, rather indulging in appeasement and fulfilling preconditions placed by the other party [TPLF],” tweeted the ambassador yesterday.
However, the TPLF issued a statement demanding the resumption of basic services at the forefront of the peace talks, citing the poverty and social crisis in Tigray.
The issue of western Tigray is also another bone of contention. Both parties are declaring it is “not up for negotiation.”
Experts claim the special envoys are using TPLF terms as a card against the federal government. However, they argue that both the federal government and TPLF will give way as the negotiation kicks off.
“Both parties will have something to gain and lose. The TPLF will drop its referendum and secession agenda as the federal government makes its demand over western Tigray and may secure a semi-autonomous administration. Both parties want the negotiation to start as fast as possible. The TPLF is under pressure because of the rising social crisis in Tigray,” stated political analyst closely following foreign powers’ interest in the regional politics of the Horn.
“The federal government is also under pressure from the foreign interest groups, who can push the TPLF to another round of war if the federal government refuses to allow basic services or tends to delay the negotiation,” the analyst said.