April 12, 2024

Horn of Africa at an inflection point amid crises, says United States after visit with leaders in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt

Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui
Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui

The Horn of Africa is at an inflection point and diplomacy, human rights, and democratic values must be a priority throughout the region, said a statement from the United States Department of State following the completion of Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to the region.

“The decisions that are made in the weeks and months ahead will have significant implications for the people of the region as well as for U.S. interests,” the statement said regarding the current state of the Horn of Africa.

During his visit, Feltman met with leaders from Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan.

The most pressing issue that was a topic of discussion during the special envoy’s visit was the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Numerous reports from various organizations and agencies have detailed the systematic and indiscriminate raping, killing, and displacement of civilians that have been occurring in the region.

In Tigray, millions are currently in need of immediate humanitarian assistance as the conflict that started over six months ago has ravaged the region and widespread human rights abuses have exacerbated economic instability.

Following Feltman’s visit with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other Ethiopian leaders, the U.S. State Department reaffirmed its commitment to addressing the Tigray crisis, saying, “The United States will work with our international allies and partners to secure a ceasefire, end this brutal conflict, provide the life-saving assistance that is so urgently needed, and hold those responsible for human rights abuses and violations accountable.”

Imperative to putting an end to the Tigray crisis is the complete withdrawal of Eritrean troops from the region. In March, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed first reported plans from Eritrea to withdraw all of its forces from the region. However, there has not been any observable evidence that serious steps toward withdrawal have been taken.

“In Asmara, Special Envoy Feltman underscored to President Isaias Afwerki [Eritrea] the imperative that Eritrean troops withdraw from Ethiopia immediately,” said the statement from the U.S. Department of State.

However, the crisis in Tigray is not the only challenge that the region is faced with overcoming as there are growing border disputes and disagreements over water management between Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.

“We are also committed to working with international partners to facilitate resolution of regional flash points—such as the dispute over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and conflict on Sudan’s borders—so they do not undermine the fragile progress made since the revolution,” said the statement.

The United States encouraged the African Union to resume negotiations urgently and emphasized the importance of substantive negotiating between all parties involved in the dispute.

While there are concerning tensions and disagreements between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt, as well as humanitarian atrocities in Tigray, the United States Department of State has asserted that there is ample opportunity to use diplomatic efforts as a tool to promote democratic values throughout the region and create a turning point for human rights moving forward.

In spite of many challenges and obstacles, the Horn of Africa offers many reasons to be optimistic and hopeful for improved stability and defense of human rights in the near future.

Sudan, for instance, is in the process of a monumental transition toward democracy. “The political transition in Sudan is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that can serve as an example for the region,” said the U.S. Department of State.

According to the State Department, the United States will continue to support democratic efforts, defend human rights, and encourage diplomatic habits throughout the Horn of Africa.

Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman is to return to the region shortly in order to continue diplomatic efforts to resolve conflicts and tensions in the Horn of Africa.

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