The African Union and the United States Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa said they see a small window of opportunity to end fighting in Ethiopia, as the United Nations warned that the risk of Ethiopia spiraling into a widening civil war is “only too real.”
War broke out in November 2020 between federal troops and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party of Tigray.
Since then, thousands have been killed and more than 2 million have fled their homes.
The AU envoy for the Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo both briefed the U.N. Security Council after the African Union earlier on Monday held a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis.
Speaking from Ethiopia, Obasanjo said that by the end of the week “we hope to have a programme in hand that will indicate” how they can achieve humanitarian access and a withdrawal of troops that satisfies all the parties.
The United Nations estimates 400,000 people in the northern region of Tigray are living in famine-like conditions following a year of war.
“All these leaders, here in Addis Ababa and in the north, agree individually that the differences between them are political and require a political solution through dialogue,” Obasanjo told the 15-member council, but stressed: “The window of opportunity we have is very little and that time is short.”
Obasanjo told the council he had met with Abiy, the leader of Ethiopia’s Oromiya region and travelled to Mekelle on Sunday to meet TPLF leaders. He plans to travel to the regions of Amhara and Afar on Tuesday, where the conflict has spread from neighboring Tigray.
The U.S. State Department also said on Monday that Washington believes there is a small window to work with the AU to make progress on ending the conflict.
“We believe there is a small window of opening to work with the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa … to further joint efforts to peacefully resolve the conflict in Ethiopia,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Monday.
Ethiopia’s U.N. Ambassador Taye Atske Selassie Amde told the U.N. Security Council: “Our route to a dialogue and political solution will not be straightforward or easy.”
“For now we’re focused on halting TPLF and rescuing and reaching our public that suffered immensely,” he said.