By AGGREY MUTAMBO
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday called on Ethiopian protagonists to embrace “genuine” reconciliation and end the war that has been fought for more than a year.
The Kenyan leader, speaking publicly for the third time in three months on Ethiopia’s conflict, said civilians in Ethiopia have been deprived of dignity as protagonists continue to fight.
Ethiopia’s national defence forces and allied militia have, since November 2020, been fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The conflict began when the TPLF, once a ruling party but now a proscribed group, was accused of ambushing a northern camp of the national military.
And despite the pendulum of victory swinging from the government forces to TPLF and back in more than a year, sporadic fighting has continued with serious loss of lives on both sides, as well as a blockade on Tigray that has raised humanitarian concerns.
“The promise of a peaceful, secure, and stable Ethiopia will only be realised by the ability of all parties in Ethiopia to surmount challenges in ways that are both sustainable and acceptable to all the people of Ethiopia,” President Kenyatta said in a statement.
“I call on the people of Ethiopia, in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, to embrace peace and pave the way for genuine reconciliation. The prosperity of Ethiopia, our region, and, indeed, our continent, has to be anchored in an enduring peace and security, and a firm belief that together, we can create a better world.”
The Ethiopian government under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pledged to hold a national dialogue, but which he says will exclude all armed groups currently fighting the government.
At the end of December, the TPLF asked the international community to help provide humanitarian aid to the Tigray region and said it was ready for talks.
Ethiopia at the time claimed victory and announced it could create special corridors for delivery of aid.
Though some relief was delivered, there has been shelling of Tigray and sporadic fighting has continued in areas where aid was to pass through.
Both sides have accused one another of violating ceasefire for humanitarian delivery.
Dialogue and compromise
The Kenyan leader said an “all-inclusive national dialogue” should be held where both sides agree to compromise on their stances.
He spoke ahead of the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa this Friday, a first gathering of heads of state in Ethiopia under the continental bloc since January 2019.
The Tigray conflict has not been indicated as a point of discussion on the tentative agenda provided so far; leaders were expected to discuss nutrition and human development.
Kenyatta, however, has been vocal about the situation in Ethiopia.
In November, he issued a statement warning that nobody could help the country to rebuild if warring parties continue to fight.
“The lack of meaningful dialogue between the protagonists has been particularly disturbing to me and today I once again call on all well-meaning men and women of Ethiopia to come together and find a solution to help find peace at this critical time,” he said then.
“No one can do this for them; no amount of intervention and persuasion will work if they themselves lack the political will to end this crisis. I am therefore calling on them today, to publicly and forthrightly come together and to put down their arms and to cease the fighting, to talk, and to find a path to sustainable peace in Ethiopia.”
The two sides have resisted an AU mediation offer through High Representative Olusegun Obasanjo. They have also resisted threats of sanctions from the US and calls by the UN for an independent investigation into atrocities.
On January 24, President Kenyatta warned that the war could also stall the common infrastructure projects initially planned between the two sides.