Uhuru to join Ethiopia peace talks in SA
Retired President Uhuru Kenyatta is this weekend set to join a team of African Union envoys leading new efforts to return stability in Ethiopia following renewed fighting.
The ex-Head of State will be travelling to South Africa to join a panel of eminent envoys picked by the AU to mediate between the Ethiopian government and the rebel group, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF.)
The TPLF has been fighting for the region’s independence from Ethiopia for many years.
Recently, President William Ruto appointed his predecessor, Uhuru, as Kenya’s special envoy for peace in the region.
The South African meeting scheduled for Sunday will be Uhuru’s first since he took over the role after handing over power to Ruto on September 13. Before then, however, Uhuru had led talks for resumption of peace in Ethiopia.
During Ruto’s inaugural speech following his swearing-in ceremony, he hailed Uhuru for steering peace initiatives, especially in Ethiopia and the Great Lakes region — which comprises the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda.
He also announced the new position he had requested Uhuru to assume, which he said the ex-president had accepted
“On the peace initiatives in our region, including both in Ethiopia and the Great Lakes region, I have asked my elder brother Uhuru, who has done commendable engagement with those regions, and he has graciously agreed to continue chairing those discussions on behalf of the people of Kenya,” said Ruto.
The peace talks on Sunday will be led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is the AU Representative for the Horn of Africa. Former South Africa deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the other team member.
A letter by AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki said eminent persons will oversee the laying of the foundation for proper talks between the two warring groups.
“The peace talks between the two parties, are expected to deliberate on the guiding principles, agenda issues, modalities, format and timelines for the negotiated settlement aimed at laying the foundation for a structured and sustained mediation between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the TPLF, towards durable resolution of the conflict,” Faki said.
The Tigray conflict escalated in November 2020 after the country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered a military response against regional forces in the northern region following a suspected uprising against his government.
Fighting has not ceased since then, although there was a temporary cessation of hostilities last March. But fighting resumed this month as TPLF accused government forces of launching fresh attacks.
Thousands of people are said to have been killed in the conflict that has displaced more two million civilians.