December 1, 2022

In Ottawa, Blinken gets feedback on Ethiopia-Tigray peace talks from Moussa Faki

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat as part of the U.S.-African Union High Level Dialogue, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2022. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat as part of the U.S.-African Union High Level Dialogue, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2022. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/
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United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki on Thursday in Ottawa to get a feedback on the Ethiopia-Tigray peace talks taking place in South Africa. The talks are facilitated by the African Union.

Secretary Blinken thanked Chairperson Faki for his support of the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, and commended the African Union’s leadership in convening peace negotiations between the government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan regional authorities in South Africa, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

“It’s a real pleasure to have the opportunity to meet with Chairman Faki. We’ve had many previous meetings. This one comes at an important time as the AU is playing a leadership role in trying to bring to an end the violence and conflict in northern Ethiopia; and so I look forward to hearing from the chairman about our combined efforts to do that, and also to talk a little bit about the Africa Leaders Summit that will take place in Washington in December, where President Biden very much looks forward to hosting the African Union and many other colleagues from around the continent,” Blinken said in remarks before their meeting.

Faki who spoke through an interpreter responded by saying, “think peace and security issues will be at the top of our agenda.”

In his brief statement, State Department spokesperson, Price, added that on Chad, “the Secretary reiterated the AU principles on the transition, including on the ineligibility of transition leaders to participate in elections.  The Secretary also raised the Black Sea Grain Deal and the positive impact it has had on critical grain reaching countries in need.

Blinken also expressed appreciation for the AU’s role in responding to the current Uganda Ebola outbreak and coordinating regional prevention and preparedness efforts.  

The war in Ethiopia and the rise of autocracy in Chad are two of many challenges facing the African continent.

The United States government on Tuesday night urged Ethiopian and Tigrayan negotiators who are currently meeting in South Africa to engage seriously in peace talks to reach a lasting resolution to the nearly two-year long conflict.

In a statement, Blinken said that “the United States welcomes the start of African Union (AU)-led peace negotiations between the government of Ethiopia and Tigrayan regional authorities in South Africa today.”

He added, “We urge the delegations to engage seriously in these talks to reach a lasting resolution to this conflict.  As a first priority, it is essential to achieve an immediate cessation of hostilities.  We also call on the delegations to agree on unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need, measures to protect civilians, and Eritrea’s withdrawal from northern Ethiopia. 

“We commend South Africa for hosting the talks and support AU High Representative Obasanjo, former South African Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka, and former Kenyan President Kenyatta as mediators.  I have spoken with Kenyan President Ruto, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Pandor, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy to convey the urgency of ending this conflict now.  I will continue to consult with the AU on forging a political resolution to this destabilizing conflict.   

“There is no military solution to this conflict, and these talks represent the most promising way to achieve lasting peace and prosperity for all Ethiopians.”

After two years of war that has left tens of thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced, peace talks between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray authorities officially began in South Africa on Tuesday.

Vincent Magwenya, the spokesperson for president Cyril Ramaphosa, announced that the African Union-led talks that started on Tuesday are expected to continue until Sunday. “Such talks ate in line with Africa’s foreign policy objectives of a secure and conflict-free continent,” Magwenya said.

Negotiators from the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan authorities are all in South Africa, as well as the main mediators, AU High Representative and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo as well as AU panel members Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.

Chad in crisis

Human Rights Watch called for a prompt and impartial investigation on Wednesday after security forces fired on protesters in several cities across Chad, including N’Djamena, the capital, on October 20, 2022, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens.

In a statement, the rights group said that the security forces – officers from the army, gendarmes, and police – also beat protesters and arrested hundreds of people, many apparently arbitrarily, during and after the protests. The government spokesperson told international media that at least 15 security services personnel were killed.

“Chadian authorities need to immediately ensure that an effective, independent investigation will be conducted to determine if the security services’ use of lethal force was a justified, proportionate response to any alleged violence,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “People should be able to peacefully protest government policy without being shot at or killed.”

Human Rights Watch added that it received accounts from protesters and witnesses that some protesters threw stones, and saw unverified photos that show a handful of protesters with knives, but found no evidence that protesters carried guns. Media reported incidents of looting in some cities amid the chaos that followed the security forces’ response to the protests, including in N’Djamena, where the prime minister’s office was looted.

“Chadian authorities should ensure that all those responsible for the unlawful use of force, in particular security force members implicated in violations of the right to life, are appropriately prosecuted and punished,” Mudge said. “The transitional government should ensure that its security forces refrain from unjustified and disproportionate use of force during demonstrations and respect the fundamental rights to life, bodily integrity, and liberty, as well as those of assembly and peaceful protest.”

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