Tigray Rebels Call For Talks With Ethiopia Hosted by Kenya President

Tigray rebels have said they are ready to name a team of negotiators for talks with Addis Ababa.

Tigrayan rebels, who have been at war with the Ethiopian government since November 2020, have said they are ready to name a team of negotiators for talks with Addis Ababa, Tigray’s external affairs representative Kindeya Gebrehiwot has said.

On June 14, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signalled the possibility that his government would hold talks with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) but TPLF has argued that it is prepared to sit for dialogue with Ethiopia if the mediation is hosted and facilitated by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and brings on board the US, EU, the United Nations and the AU.

The Ethiopian government has already named seven negotiators led by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen to negotiate with the Tigray rebels in a bid to end the 18-month bloody conflict in the country’s north.

The peace talks between TPLF and the federal government, which were initially expected to commence by the end of June, did not happen yet.

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It still remains unclear when and where the first face-to-face talks will be held but the TPLF official said discussions are ongoing for an agreement on unsettled issues.

“There is no agreed date, and details of other arrangements are not yet finalised. There are discussions though” said Prof Kindeya.

The TPLF official accused the Ethiopian government of showing little commitment to Tigray peace talks.

“The issue is not about naming a team. It is rather about a commitment for it,” Prof Kindeya said when asked why the government’s appointment of peace negotiation team cannot be seen as a sign of commitment.

“The government of Tigray has been signalling its commitment for peace since this conflict has started,” he said.

He accused Addis Ababa of showing mixed signals and conflicting messages about peace and war.

“You would hear about peace from the PM, and at the same time labelling/blaming TPLF on every problem in the country including the Sudan-Ethiopia recent conflict from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the army preparing for war from the chief of staff, not to mention the daily drums of war from the Amhara authorities,” Prof Kindeya added.

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“If you monitor their media, you would see the conflicting signals. If they are serious about peace, they should come clean,” he added.

The African Union (AU) special envoy, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, has recently been in several meetings with TPLF and government leaders in a bid to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Ethiopian Justice Minister Gedion Timotheos said that the team of negotiators was authorised to negotiate with the rebels but with a clear directive that talks would be mediated by the AU and in strict adherence to Ethiopia’s sovereignty.

“The silence of the African Union over the war and the atrocities perpetrated by the forces ranged against us was a betrayal of the foundational principles of the African Union. We have consistently condemned the failure of the African Union chairperson and his High Representative to take a consistent position with the solemn obligation under the Constitutive Act of the Union,” the rebels said.

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The Tigray conflict which erupted in in November 2020 has claimed the lives of thousands of people and resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis, subjecting 90 per cent of Tigrayans to famine-like conditions.

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