Barely six months on the job and amid ongoing political instability in the region, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield will step down before the summer.
According to reports, Deputy Special Envoy Payton Knopf will serve as acting Special Envoy.
Satterfield and Knopf were scheduled to arrive in Ethiopia on Wednesday, according to the State Department, for discussions with Ethiopian government officials, humanitarian organisation leaders, and diplomatic partners.
When contacted about Satterfield’s departure, the State Department had no formal response.
The announcement of Satterfield’s impending resignation, first reported by Foreign Policy, comes at a time when the area is beset by crises.
Ethiopia has been embroiled in a conflict for more than a year, with both sides accusing the other of crimes, while Sudan is in economic and political chaos following an October coup.
The administration’s commitment to the region is also questioned by the frequent changes in personnel, especially at a time when it is dealing with significant foreign policy challenges abroad, most notably Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Satterfield, a long-serving career diplomat with decades of experience, had taken over from Jeffrey Feltman, another long-serving US ambassador who had resigned at the end of last year after only nine months on the position. Feltman is still on the team as a consultant.
During a war that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced more than a million people, two leading human rights organizations accused armed forces from Ethiopia’s Amhara region of launching an ethnic cleansing campaign against ethnic Tigrayans.
According to a joint investigation by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), atrocities by Amhara officials, regional special forces, and militias during fighting in western Tigray amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also charged Ethiopia’s military with being complicit in the crimes.
In a statement released last week, Ethiopia’s government stated that it was dedicated to holding individuals responsible for abuses of human rights and humanitarian law accountable.
Amhara government spokesman Gizachew Muluneh told Reuters last week the allegations of abuses and ethnic cleansing in western Tigray were “lies” and “fabricated” news.
Last week, the US raised worry over claims of ethnically motivated crimes in Tigray and demanded an end to ethnically driven detentions.
After former President Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a 2019 revolt, the military takeover interrupted a transition that had raised hopes of an end to decades of authoritarianism, civil war, and economic isolation in Sudan.
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