The African Union envoy for the Horn of Africa Olusegun Obasanjo warned on Monday that time is running out to find a political resolution to the raging conflict in northern Ethiopia. Obasanjo, a former Nigerian President, briefed the United Nations Security Council from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia where he arrived on Thursday.
“The Time is now for collective actions in finding lasting solution to avoid further escalation of the situation, which may have direct effect on the strategic Horn of Africa region as a whole,” he said. “All the leaders here in Addis Ababa and in the north agree individually that the differences between them are political and require political solutions through dialogue.”
He added that dialogue “constitutes a window of opportunity that we can collectively tap into to assist the people of Ethiopia to find a lasting solution to the ongoing crisis.”
The AU envoy said he will visit the northern regions of Amhara and Afar on Tuesday where he is expected to meet with local leaders.
Obasanjo and the United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths at the weekend also visited Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray.
Griffiths wrapped up a four-day visit to Ethiopia on Monday after meetings with leaders from all sides. The U.N. has said no aid has been delivered to Tigray since October 18, warning that more than five million people are at an increased risk of famine.
The United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman also returned to Ethiopia on Monday following meetings in Kenya to find a peaceful resolution to the Ethiopian conflict.
But in Washington, demonstrators carried placards and banners that read, “Ethiopia does not take order from Feltman.”
“Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman is currently in Ethiopia to underscore the United States’ grave concern with the escalation of the conflict and the risk of intercommunal violence, and to encourage all parties to engage in a dialogue on a cessation of hostilities,” the State Department said in a statement in Washington.
From November 4 to 7, Special Envoy Feltman traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hasan, Minister of Defense Abraham Belay, and Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide. He also met with AU High Representative Olusegun Obasanjo, AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, UN Undersecretary General Martin Griffiths, and other international partners and government leaders.
From November 7 to 8, Special Envoy Feltman traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, where he consulted with President Kenyatta and other political leaders on the conflict in Ethiopia.
“The United States will continue to work with international partners to address the crisis in Ethiopia, including through action with the United Nations, the African Union, and other relevant partners and institutions. Special Envoy Feltman remains in the region and returned to Ethiopia today, November 8,” the Department added.
Despite all the diplomatic efforts from Africa, the United States and the United Nations, the TPLF and the Ethiopian government do not seem to be near any talks. Rather, their supporters are all standing firmly behind them.
On Monday, thousands of Ethiopians rallied at the White House in Washington D.C. on Monday in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, and against the Biden administration’s stance in the ongoing conflict in Tigray, a day after a similar rally held in Addis Ababa with tens of thousands of people in attendance.
The demonstrators in Washington, like those in Addis a day earlier, accused the United States of supporting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and their allies who are said to be advancing toward the capital of Ethiopia in an attempt to seize power from Abiy.
Berhnu Endegena, a 60-year old Ethiopian demonstrator sat by the White House’s fence with a placard that read, “We stand with our government in its effort for political reform!”
He told Today News Africa‘s Simon Ateba that he came to the White House to let the Biden administration know that Ethiopians are behind their Prime Minister and against the TPLF.
Riyot Zeleke, a 39-year old demonstrator said the Biden administration is on the wrong side of history in Ethiopia and that he came to the White House to protest against the administration’s stance toward the war in Tigray. He said the Biden administration should stand with the people of Ethiopia and not the rebels.
Other demonstrators’ placards read, “TPLF is terrorist. USA take your hands off from Ethiopia. CNN. fake news. Long Live Ethiopia. Heartbroken Democrat. No More.”
Other big banners read, “CNN stop false reporting on Ethiopia. Ethiopians defeated colonialists, will overcome neo-colonialism too!”
Those messages were similar to those demonstrators displayed in Addis Ababa on Sunday when tens of thousands of Ethiopians took to the street in support of Abiy.
In that protest, one demonstrator’s placard read, “Shame on you USA,” while another called on the United States to stop “sucking Ethiopia’s blood.” Many demonstrators said the United States was interfering in their domestic affairs and backing the “TPLF terrorists.” The demonstrators also denounced western media for taking side with the rebels, accusing CNN, BBC, Reuters and others of being “fake news.”
The United States, the United Nations, the African Union and others, including Kenya and Uganda, have recently called on all parties to lay down their weapons and negotiate, asserting that war would not end the conflict. The United States has also said it was against any TPLF advance toward the Ethiopian capital, warning that a civil war in Africa’s second most populous nation would be devastating and last many years.
But the government of Abiy vowed to keep fighting last week, saying on Friday that it had a responsibility to secure Ethiopia, and that now is the time for the International community to stand with the country and not rebel forces from the north.
TPLF has been designated a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government, however, the United States sees the organization as a necessary player to ending the current crisis.
As the conflict has continued to worsen, displacing more than 2 million people, killing thousands more and leaving about 400,000 at an increased risk of famine, the United States has been the most vocal in calling for a peaceful resolution to raging war, and has threatened to impose sanctions to force all sides to negotiate.
Last Tuesday, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced that he is planning to remove Ethiopia from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade agreement, accusing the East African nation of gross human rights violations.
Mr. Biden on September 17 authorized the U.S. government to impose sanctions on all those undermining peace in Ethiopia. Those sanctions have not yet been imposed as the Biden administration tries to exhaust all peaceful means.