Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has returned from an urgent tour of some of his neighbours to try to shore up support for his strategy in Tigray.
It is not hard to see why he made this hurried trip: support from the rest of Africa has been eroding as the Tigray war gets bloodier, famine threatens 350,000 people and there’s no end in sight for the conflict.
Perhaps most serious of all: the Tigray war threatens to spread beyond Ethiopia and Eritrea, undermining the stability of the Horn of Africa.
The speech by the Kenyans at the UN Security Council on Thursday 26th August really rattled PM Abiy.
It is reproduced below. It is important to recall that PM Abiy’s strategy has been to declare that the Tigrayans are “terrorists” who must be crushed, not negotiated with. He has repeatedly rejected African Union and UN offers of mediation. Now this appears to be unravelling.
Kenya’s UN ambassador was speaking not only on his country’s behalf, but on behalf of Africa.
These are some key passages:
1. On Tigrayan aggression as the cause of the war:
“The violence presently afflicting the people and country of Ethiopia is the product of conflicting views of the country’s future. It has erupted and worsened because the country’s conflict prevention and resolution tools have, until now, been inadequate to the task.”
2. On ethnic mobilisation by the government:
“We must also pronounce our concern and caution about the rallying of the civilian population to the conflict. Though it may be intended to marshal the patriotic spirit of the people, it can lead to an uncontrollable spiral of violence and bloodshed. There are those who will take it to be an invitation to acts of collective punishment against civilians.”
3. On declaring the TPLF a terrorist organisation:
“Peace cannot be made with a political movement that has been labeled as a terrorist group. Parliament should prepare to lift this designation to allow for direct contact and negotiation with armed actors opposing the government.”
The Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations, New York
Security Council – 2021-2022
SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON PEACE AND SECURITY IN AFRICA:
THE SITUATION IN TIGRAY
THURSDAY 26TH AUGUST 2021 AT 3:00 AM
STATEMENT BY AMBASSADOR MARTIN KIMANI, PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF KENYA ON BEHALF OF THE A-3+1 (KENYA, NIGER, ST. VINCENT, AND THE GRENADINES AND TUNISIA)
- I have the honor to make this statement on behalf of the A3+1, namely Kenya, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia.
- I thank the Secretary General for his briefing on the latest developments in We commend his engagement with Ethiopian leadership, the African Union, and regional leaders. We believe that his good offices can play an important role in facilitating a resolution of the current situation.
- We have heard the important information, insights and concerns expressed by our fellow members of the Security Council. We indeed share similar points of view with many of them.
- The violence presently afflicting the people and country of Ethiopia is the product of conflicting views of the country’s future. It has erupted and worsened because the country’s conflict prevention and resolution tools have, until now, been inadequate to the task.
- The resolution to this crisis requires that we undertake a mediation of the deep divides as part of an Ethiopian-owned process supported by the available Peace and Security Architecture and practices especially those of the African Union.
- As the A3+1, we observe that on every side of the conflict there is a growing perception of ethnic identity being the basis of conflict. The opposed sides give short shrift to each other’s grievances, and regard opposition to their own view as as illegitimate.
- The opposed constituencies, reflecting the present political character of Ethiopia, are organized along ethnic lines. This makes them uniquely dangerous because they easily conflate political opposition to a struggle between ethnicities.
- We have witnessed with profound concern the resulting terrible harms that have befallen innocent civilians. And if the present course is not changed, we fear that it may get far worse.
- We have condemned, and continue to condemn, the violence against The killings of boys and men not in uniform. The destruction of civilian objects. The confrontations that have led to the blocking of humanitarian aid being delivered to desperate families. In particular we register our strongest protest against the horrific human rights violations and acts of sexual violence perpetrated against girls and women.
- Our values as a continent, as captured with such gravity in the African Union’s Constitutive Act, demand ‘respect for the sanctity of human life and the condemnation and rejection of impunity’.
- To put an end to this violence, our values must inspire and drive practical action.
- In our last statement on the 2nd of July, we welcomed the democratic aspirations of the Ethiopian people as expressed in the last elections. We return to this important moment for Ethiopia to argue that democracy, above all, is a mechanism for the resolution of serious political differences.
- The democratic mandate awarded by the millions of voters must include every Ethiopian citizen. Even, and perhaps especially, in Tigray, and other parts of the country where the vote was not held due to insecurity.
- The democratic mandate will only fulfill its potential and fundamental requirement by helping resolve the greatest differences in Ethiopia.
- Excellencies, fellow members of the Security Council, it is not easy to move from violent confrontation to the negotiating table. This was why on 2nd July we recommended use of the mechanisms available in Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture underpinned by our Constitutive Act.
- Foremost among these mechanisms, and that is available to Ethiopia immediately, is the ‘right of Member States to request intervention from the Union in order to restore peace and and security.’
- We look forward to the appointment of African mediators bound by these commitments, and for the most concerned African Heads of State and Government to stand by the mediation process.
- The process must promote and protect human and peoples’ rights.
- It must be clear in assuring the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Ethiopia.
- It should be genuinely inclusive to promote unity, solidarity, cohesion, and cooperation among the peoples of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian State.
- To allow space for it, we therefore urge the Government of Ethiopia to remove all legal, administrative and security barriers to a political dialogue. No matter what has come to pass, the Government needs to acknowledge the existence of legitimate grievances, and to understand that they must be resolved peacefully.
- We must also pronounce our concern and caution about the rallying of the civilian population to the conflict. Though it may be intended to marshal the patriotic spirit of the people, it can lead to an uncontrollable spiral of violence and bloodshed. There are those who will take it to be an invitation to acts of collective punishment against civilians.
- This is the time for leadership to urge calm, to give confidence that the country has the ability to overcome even this greatest of challenges with its growing democratic instincts.
- To the armed actors in Tigray, the TPLF or the TDF, we urge the withdrawal from neighboring regions, and a halt to the rallying of other armed actors. The further they advance outside Tigray, the greater the danger to the people on whose behalf they claim to be acting.
- Escalating political tensions in other parts of the country will not solve the crisis, it will only widen the divide.
- The TPLF must leave no doubts lingering that they will ever play any part in compromising the political independence and territorial integrity of Ethiopia which all members of the African Union are obliged to defend.
- In addition, we recommend the spirit of the following steps to all Ethiopian leaders, understanding that they are not easy to implement them.
- Make immediate announcements, to all citizens, and to all militia and armed units, that the targeting of civilians, and particularly women is unacceptable and must stop
- Deconflict military movements in Tigray, Afar and Amhara to enable unfettered access to humanitarian aid before famine returns to any part of Ethiopia. It is important that lines of communication between military leaders be opened for this purpose.
- Announce a willingness to stop hostilities and to engage in ceasefire.
- For the parliament just voted into office. Peace cannot be made with a political movement that has been labeled as a terrorist group. Parliament should prepare to lift this designation to allow for direct contact and negotiation with armed actors opposing the government.
- For the government, tangibly demonstrate an embrace of the people of Tigray by resuming the provision of basic services to them.
- Accept the good offices of the African Union, the region, and the UN Secretary General as bridges to mediation and peacebuilding.
- To this Security Council and the International Community, we make the following recommendations.
- We call for the government of Eritrea to withdraw its forces from Ethiopia and embrace the role of peacebuilding.
- We urge wealthy countries and organizations to provide adequate resources to the humanitarian campaigns in Ethiopia.
- We call for the UN Development Programme, the World Bank, the IMF, and all of Ethiopia s creditors to deliver an economic recovery package to implement the moment political mediation is underway.
- We urge caution in the use of any unilateral coercive sanction measures that risk Ethiopia’s economic collapse. Their use will only worsen the humanitarian crisis.
- To the African Union, we call for a reenergizing of the peace and security We have seen that its powerful capabilities contribute to resolving many conflict situations in the continent, and we believe they can be used in Ethiopia.
- Allow us to conclude with a final caution. War is seductive. There are those who today in Ethiopia call for it be given a chance. Such an attitude taps into a deep human desire for the clarity that enmity appears to offer. It promises simplicity instead of painful compromise, the annoying need to listen to the other, and the frustration that comes from trying to appreciate complexity.
- The Ethiopia of old inspired and rallied Africans. It had challenges, it had known war and subjugation among and between its peoples. But its successful resistance to colonialism, racism and fascism rallied our spirits.
- As Africans, we are conscious that this is our historical moment to recover our march to prosperity, peace and independence from the actors who prefer us weak and divided. Ethiopia must not tap into its glorious history to solely grasp the grievances that lead to anger and hatred. Instead, Ethiopians must find in their past the prominent lessons of compromise, unity and peace.
- We appeal to the leaders and people of Ethiopia to understand that they cannot break each others spirits and succeed in building a united and prosperous country.