US top envoy for Horn of Africa will hold two days of talks in Ethiopia, pushing for dialogue to end the Tigray war that has killed thousands of people and displaced millions since November 2020.
Urgent new efforts to calm Ethiopia’s escalating war are unfolding as a US special envoy visits and the president of neighbouring Kenya calls for an immediate ceasefire.
The lack of dialogue “has been particularly disturbing,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Thursday, as the war that has killed thousands of people and displaced millions since November 2020 threatens to engulf the capital, Addis Ababa.
The spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond when asked whether he would meet with US special envoy Jeffrey Feltman who lands in Ethiopia on Thursday. Feltman insisted this week that “there are many, many ways to initiate discreet talks.”
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that he had spoken with Abiy “to offer my good offices to create the conditions for a dialogue so the fighting stops.”
But so far, efforts for such discussions have failed.
Tigray rebels claim significant gains
Rival Tigray forces seized key cities in recent days and linked up with another armed group, leading the government of Africa’s second-most populous country to declare a national state of emergency.
Tigray forces spokesperson Getachew Reda claimed in a tweet late on Wednesday that they had “joined hands” with armed group Oromo Liberation Army to seize the city of Kemisse, close to the capital.
“Joint operations will continue in the days and weeks ahead,” he said. Yet, the claim could not immediately be verified.
The #TigrayArmedForces joined hands with #OLF-OLA to liberate #Kemisse, the capital of Oromo special zone in #Amhara region. Joint operations will continue in the days and weeks ahead.#theRegimeMustGo!— Getachew K Reda (@reda_getachew) November 3, 2021
Talks to start Abiy-Tigray talks
Last week a US congressional aide told The Associated Press news agency that “there have been talks of talks with officials but when it gets to the Abiy and senior (Tigray forces) level, the demands are wide, and Abiy doesn’t want to talk.”
Instead, the prime minister has again called citizens to rise up and “bury” the Tigray forces who long dominated the national government before he came to power.
On Wednesday, Facebook said it had removed a post by Abiy with that language, saying it violated policies against inciting violence. It was a rare action against a head of state or government.
Kenya’s foreign ministry separately said that statements inciting ordinary citizens into the conflict “must be shunned.”
All sides in the war have committed abuses, a joint UN human rights investigation announced on Wednesday. Millions of people in the government-blockaded Tigray region are no longer able to receive humanitarian aid.