December 7, 2022

Blinken discusses Ethiopia with Kenyatta in first phone call since Kenyan leader released scathing letter condemning violence in Tigray

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets virtually with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets virtually with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo

The United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken on Friday spoke with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss regional security issues of mutual interest, including the escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia. 

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. hosts President Uhuru Kenyatta at the Oval Office of the White House on Thursday, October 14, 2021. Official White House photograph

“The Secretary thanked the President for his continued leadership to promote peace and prosperity in the region,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

The call between Blinken and Kenyatta comes only two days after the Kenyan leader on Wednesday called on Ethiopian warriors to “put down their arms and cease fighting.”

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali

Mr. Kenyatta, who was the first African President to be hosted by President Joseph R. Biden Jr. last month and discussed Ethiopia, urged the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to “talk, and find a path to sustainable peace in Ethiopia.”

He said “the crisis has now escalated into a nationwide social convulsion of historical proportions for Ethiopia,” asserting that “the origins of the crisis, bitter and unacceptable as they might appear, can no longer be used as a justification for the continued suffering, killings and the extended open warfare that now engulfs the nation.”

Kenyatta added, “I have lent the full weight of my office in insisting that despite the pertaining circumstances surrounding this crisis, the fighting must stop!”

In his letter was titled ‘an appeal to the government and the people of Ethiopia’, Mr. Kenyatta said he had consulted with leaders in Africa and beyond to bring an end to the crisis, and was concerned that “after one year the crisis has not abated but has in fact deteriorated.”

“The fighting has continued, the deaths have accumulated, the displacement persists, and crisis and humanitarian emergency has taken root in the country.”

Eritrea’s president

“It is highly regrettable that this is all happening amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with its attendant risks and disruptions, particularly for the most vulnerable,” Kenyatta added.

The crisis in Ethiopia, which began on November 4, 2020, has now lasted one year, killed thousands of people and displaced tens of thousands others into neighboring Sudan. The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of people or millions are at an increased risk of famine, while the United States has been warning that a civil war in the country would be devastating to Africa’s second most populous nation.

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