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The Role of the African Union as Facilitator of the Peace Process  in Ethiopia 

John Philpot _ African Union _ Ethiopia
John Philpot

By John Philpot, International Criminal Lawyer 

This paper will comment on the parameters of the peace process in Ethiopia and the  negotiations between the Government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)  insurgency. Relying on the African Union as a mediator is the right approach. We are no  longer in 1990 when the United States and its allies could unilaterally impose their will. 

It is based on an interview by John Philpot with the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) on July  2, 2022. The ENA is the official news agency of the Government of Ethiopia.1 The Ethiopian  Embassy in London made a statement about the peace process entitled On the Peaceful  Resolution of the Conflict in the Northern part of Ethiopia.2 

We will comment succinctly on the principles established by the Executive Committee and  the Central Committee of the Prosperity Party. There will be comparisons with the Arusha  negotiations in Rwanda which led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans and the  negotiations in Burundi in 2015-2016 which ended with a successful democratic process. The  author is not an expert on Ethiopia but has considerable knowledge of proxy wars,  international criminal law, peace negotiations in Africa and international relations. Burundi  preserved its sovereignty successfully. Under extreme pressure, Rwanda lost its national  sovereignty leading to the unmitigated disaster called the Rwandan Genocide. In 2022,  

African Bar Association July 2022 John Philpot

Ethiopia is acting in a sovereign manner in its own interest. Peace-loving peoples should  support the peace process. 

Government Principles  

“One of the agenda items that the Executive Committee and the Central Committee of  the Prosperity Party have deliberated upon in the previous week was concerning the  option of the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the northern part of Ethiopia. We  are committed to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. We do our level best to make  our agenda for peace a success. 

Any outcome of [the Peace] process should be within the bounds of these three  principles: 

1. Respect for the constitutional order 

2. Respect for fundamental national interest 

3. The role of the African union as the facilitator of the process 

Reasons to proceed with the peace process:  

1. This is not a conflict that we have entered into with our free volition, and this is not  something we chose. This is a conflict that has been imposed upon us. The federal  government has tried its level best to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict [before  and during the conflict] 

2. Peace is essential and of paramount importance for our political and reform  initiatives to succeed 

3. The need to put an end to this tragic chapter in our history and to move forward 

4. An aspiration to move towards reconstruction rehabilitation and reconciliation of  communities that have been affected by the conflict 

5. The need to avoid further bloodshed and to end the suffering and misery that has  been occasioned by the conflict 

6. The need to foster national consensus through a process of inclusive national  dialogue 

However, we are also realistic about the daunting challenge ahead of us and the need  to be ready for any provocation or attack so we hope for and work for the best but we  shall be prepared for scenarios that are far from the best. 

The Central Committee and the Executive Committee of Prosperity Party would like  to call upon all Ethiopians from all walks of life, from all parts of the region, support  this peace initiative and this peace effort and both committees would also like to call 

upon the international community and friends of Ethiopia to play a constructive role  and support this peace initiative and agenda.” 

Commentary 

A peaceful solution is desired and necessary. War is the worst solution, and, in principle, the parties must avoid military solutions if possible. 

The three requirements of the Government are as follows: 

“Any outcome of [the Peace] process should be within the bounds of these three principles: 

1. Respect for the constitutional order 

2. Respect for fundamental national interest 

3. The role of the African union as the facilitator of the process” 

Principles 1 and 2 are based on respect for the constitutional order and fundamental national interest. This is the exercise of national sovereignty. 

As the constitution states:  

1. All sovereign power resides in the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia. 2. This Constitution is an expression of their sovereignty. 

The decentralized constitution does not allow for armed rebellion and defines the parameters  for secession. 

Article 39. Rights of Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples 

4. The right to self-determination, including secession, of every Nation, Nationality  and People shall come into effect: 

(a) When a demand for secession has been approved by a two-thirds majority of the  members of the legislative Council of the Nation, Nationality or People concerned; 

(b) When the Federal Government has organized a referendum which must take place  within three years from the time it received the concerned council’s decision for  secession;

      (c) When the demand for secession is supported by a majority vote in the referendum; 

(d) When the Federal Government will have transferred its powers to the Council of  the Nation, Nationality or People who has voted to secede; and 

(e) When the division of assets is effected in a manner prescribed by law. The parties are bound by the constitution and armed secession is unconstitutional. 

Article 47 of the Constitution defines the rights of nation, nationality or people to form its  own state by referendum with a two thirds majority. The House of the Federation has  ultimate authority to resolve border issues of states. The Rules of national law will apply. We  note that the constitution provides for a very decentralized country and many wish to make  the constitution more centralized. This will be a future sovereign debate. 

3. The African Union is considered the proper facilitator for the process. As stated by  Executive Committee and the Central Committee of the Prosperity Party: 

1. This is not a conflict that we have entered into with our free volition, and this is not  something we chose. This is a conflict that has been imposed upon us. The federal  government has tried its level best to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict [before  and during the conflict] 

Under the circumstances, the African Union is the best choice. Ethiopia notes that the  conflict which was not chosen by the Government. There was an armed uprising in Tigray  with external support primarily from the USA. All the observers note the external support for  the uprising. The former administration chased from power in 2018 has been trying to take  power by force in this important strategic part of Africa since November 3, 2020. There has  been a concerted effort by the Government to defeat the armed uprising which culminated by  the military victory of the Government in November 2021. We note that the present  government led by the Prosperity Party won by a landslide in June 2021 with 410 seats in the  federal parliament out of 436. 

The choice of the African Union is logical. The African Union should speak for Africa. The  African Union appears to have become independent of the United States. We have seen the  cooperation between the African Union and Russia: we recall the photo of the President of 

the African Union, President of Senegal, with Vladimir Putin serving to support issues  related food exports. 

This is yet another illegal USA proxy war. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, TPLF,  chased from power, has had the support of the United States and Europe who have cried  genocide, adopted sanctions and sanction legislation. It is attempting to use human rights and  the Human Rights Committee to impose its point of view3.  

With this conflict, the United States has imposed the following sanctions: 

• On May 23, 2021, the State Department announced Sunday visa restrictions for  Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials and members of security forces over  atrocities tied to a months-long conflict in northern Ethiopia. He also announced that  the U.S. has imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to  Ethiopia after parties to the conflict in Tigray have “taken no meaningful steps to end  hostilities.” 

• Additional sanctions were imposed on September 27, 2021 

•   On November 1, 2021, Biden determined that Ethiopia is out of compliance with the  eligibility requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) “for  gross violations of internationally recognized human rights,” The Ethiopian  government must take “urgent action” by January 1 in order to remain in the program,  which grants eligible sub-Saharan African nations duty-free access to the US market  for thousands of products. This is a form of intense and damaging sanctions. 

There is a concerted media attack is support of the minority TPLF insurgency. This is set  forth in the references below. The one-sided support for TPLF, the virulent attacks on those  who criticize the TPLF, the misuse of the word “genocide” should raise shivers with those  who oppose US intervention in Africa. 

The following are useful references to understand this hybrid neocolonialist war. 

Debunking the Media Lies Fueling War in Ethiopia, w/ Journalist Hermela Aregawi (Rania Khalek,  Dispatches) 

• Ethiopia I’ve Lost Faith Everything American , Black Agenda Report by Ann  Garrison 

• How US meddling in Ethiopia & Eritrea is destabilizing strategic Horn of Africa (With Ben Norton, Max Blumenthal and Elias Amare) 

• Crisis In Ethiopia What the Media Isn’t Telling You About the War in Tigray (Rania  Khalek, Dispatches with Eugene Puryear) 

• AFRICOM and the Situation on the with Ethiopia, Tigray and the Horn of Africa organised by the Black Alliance for Peace.  

The USA has two important legislative initiatives in the House of Representatives and he  United Nations senate empowering the United States State Department to impose sanctions if  deemed necessary.4 Coined by expert, Andrew Korybko, as the most malicious humanitarian  imperialism, the Ethiopian Stabilization, Peace and Democratization Act’s (ESPDA) (HR  6600,) aims to punish the population to set the stage for a color revolution against PM Abiy,  trying to portray the anti-terrorist operation of the Ethiopian National Defense Force and a  genocidal operation operated by blood thirsty manias. We are aware that colour revolutions  waged on behalf of the USA have not been highly successful recently. 

While the Ethiopian government which is adhering to “African Solutions to African  Problems” creed, the TPLF rejects African Union as the mediator. TPLF says it is “ready to  dispatch a high-level delegation” for peace talks with the Ethiopian government.5 The TPLF  is critical of the African union concerning what it called “silence” in the face of “war and  atrocities.” It blamed former Nigerian president and current African Union Special Envoy to  the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo as being too close to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy  

Ahmed. It called for Kenya and Tanzania to mediate. However, it also wants the U.S  government, European Union, the United Arab Emirates, and the African Union. 

The TPLF is ambiguous and hides the reality of the TPLF position. The Governments of  Kenya and Tanzania are known quantities for the Ethiopian government. Without criticizing  these governments personally, it does not seem logical for these countries to replace the  African Union. The United States should not be involved. It is the dominant imperial  superpower presently sanctioning Ethiopia, and the real power behind its TPLF proxy. The  European Union is highly critical of the Ethiopian Government and put off financial support  for Ethiopia because of alleged human rights violations by the Government during the war by  the TPLF on the central government.6It cannot mediate since it is already in many ways a  party to the conflict. Is the unelected European Union different from the USA? On the other  hand, the African Union has been neutral since November 2020. 

A comparative history of proxy wars in Africa in the last thirty years, namely in Rwanda and  Burundi is instructive. We will touch on this briefly with respect to the issue of sovereignty  versus foreign intervention. 

Rwanda and the Loss of Sovereignty 

On October 1, 1990, Uganda/Rwandan Patriotic Front launched the invasion of Rwanda from  the north. Rwanda was a sovereign state and the war on Rwanda was an illegal war waged on behalf of Uganda, the USA, Great Britain, Belgium.7 The war served to overthrow the  majority Hutu Government and create a Tutsi-dominated dictatorship. The horrors of this war  called inappropriately “The Rwandan Genocide” ended in July 1994 with a victory for the  minority invaders. From 1990 to 4 August 1993, there were a series of negotiations in  Arusha, Tanzania ending in the 1993 Arusha Accords. The warring parties were treated as  equals, Rwanda losing its sovereignty to share it with the invader, Rwandan Patriotic Front. When is an armed foreign inspired rebellion/invader equal to the national government? 

The Arusha accords foresaw Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG) where positions  were divided between the different parties including the RPF invader. The Arusha  

negotiations allowed for armed presence of the RPF minority in Kigali. Within two years,  there would be national elections. The Security Council with its resolution 872 provided for a  United Nations presence from October 1993. We cannot get into the detailed history of the  war (“genocide”) after the assassination of the Hutu Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda on  April 6, 1994. Hundreds of thousands of Hutus and Tutsi died. The Arusha accord, with its inherent weaknesses, was not implemented. There were no elections and the RPF took power  by force. 

There was an armed RPF proxy force in Kigali from December 1993, and in northern  Rwanda after 1 October 1990. Rwanda did not have any control of these negotiations and  was subject to pressure by the West and Uganda/RPF. We cannot blame Rwanda for this  situation, however, since the USA dominated the world just after the disappearance of the  Soviet Union. Rwanda lost its sovereignty and suffered terrible losses. Rwanda has lived  under an effective dictatorship for more than 25 years with the support particularly of the  USA and Great Britain. 

Burundi and the Preservation of Sovereignty 

Some twenty years later in Burundi there was an analogous conflict between the Government  and the imperial West/RPF and the Tutsi minority. We recall the 1972 genocide of 300,000  Hutus by the Tutsi minority ruling Burundi. 

There had been a revolutionary war from 1993 against the Tutsi minority which ended in a  series of successful agreements and national elections from 2003 after the intervention of  Julius Nyerere and followed by Nelson Mandela. 

Without getting into the details of the political dispute, the July 21, 2015, CNDD party led by  Pierre Nkurunziza elections won with a 70% margin. The opposition, the West led by US  representative, Samantha Power, campaigned against the “illegal” election alleging that it  was an unconstitutional third term for Mr. Nkurunziza. Mediation was undertaken by the late Benjamin Mkapa, former Tanzanian president and President Yoweri Museveni from Uganda.  The position of the government of Burundi was that all political parties were legitimate  except those using violence. There had been a campaign of terrorist violence and an failed coup d’état on May 13, 2015. In December 2015, the African Union (AU) Peace and Security 

Council (PSC) recommended the unilateral intervention of a 5,000-strong African Prevention  and Protection Mission in Burundi (MAPROBU). The Government of Burundi stated that  any military intervention was unacceptable, and that the army would respond militarily. “If  AU troops came without the government’s approval, it would be an invasion and occupation  force, and the Burundi government would reserve the right to act accordingly.” 8 

No intervention happened. Very wisely, on 23 January 2016, the African Union’s political  leaders did not endorse a military invasion of Burundi by the African Union.9 Burundian  sovereignty triumphed. 

The International Criminal Court commenced an investigation of Burundi.10 Burundi had the  courage and the wisdom to withdraw from the ICC.11 The African Union was critical of the  ICC proceedings against Burundi.12 

We recall that the African Bar Association went to Burundi in 2016 and found there were no  fundamental violations of human rights. 

The key here was the exercise of political and military sovereignty by the Government of  Burundi. 

This summary shows us that the wisdom of the Ethiopian Government has been to preserve  its sovereignty which had been abandoned in Rwanda and maintained in Burundi. Happily,  the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over Ethiopia which did not sign the  Rome Statute.  

The African Union has proven to be wise in the past months and Ethiopia appears warranted  in inviting the African Union to mediate or facilitate. The TPLF is particularly wrong in  proposing the United States and the European Union as facilitators. We should support the  political process in the struggle for peace in the Horn of African. 

The article was first published on African Bar Association on July 30, 2022 

John Philpot is an international criminal lawyer, member of Sanctions Kill, speaker at  international legal forums.  www.johnphilpot.com

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1 https://www.ena.et/en/?p=36925 

2 https://www.ethioembassy.org.uk/on-the-peaceful-resolution-of-the-conflict-in-the-northern-part-of ethiopia/  

3 https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/ichre-ethiopa/index. The Study of this committee intervening in  Ethiopia should be the subject of a separate paper.

4 S. 3199 To promote peace and democracy in Ethiopia, and for other purposes., and other purposes and  H. R. 6600, To support stabilization, peace, and democracy efforts in Ethiopia. (Ethiopian Stabilization, Peace  and Democratization Act) 

5 https://borkena.com/2022/06/15/tplf-says-ready-to-dispatch-a-high-level-delegation-for-a-peace-talk-with-the-ethiopian-govt/

6 https://www.devex.com/news/eu-readies-fresh-money-for-ethiopia-but-not-yet-its-government-103436

7 See Justice Belied, The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice, 2014 https://www.barakabooks.com/catalogue/justice-belied/. John Philpot, Sebastien Chartrand

8 Microsoft Word – psc.565.comm.burundi.17.12.2015 (peaceau.org), The AU’s challenged responsibility to  protect in Burundi – Burundi | Relief Web 

9 The African Union and the Burundi Crisis: Ambition versus Reality | Crisis Group 

10 ICC judges authorise opening of an investigation regarding Burundi situation | International Criminal Court  (icc-cpi.int) 

11 Burundi and the ICC | Coalition for the International Criminal Court (coalitionfortheicc.org)

12 https://www.ejiltalk.org/african-union-v-international-criminal-court-episode-mlxiii/

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t really care who does help to end it, this senseless destructive and bloodbath of conflict must come to a lasting peaceful settlement without any excuses without any delay. This war was started for utterly stupid reasons by careless individuals. What has happened has already happened. Everyone over there has to look at the picture and what peace can bring to those who have suffered more than enough and consider what renewed war can do the already besieged citizens who have lost everything imaginable. There should not be any, not one young man/woman should be led into an awaiting inferno of war. I will be holding both Debre and Abiy along these bigots among us who have been fanning the flames of war from their comfy homes in LA, DC and other cities worldwide all equally responsible for every life and property that is going to be lost in any battle henceforth. Again, this war was ignited by stubborn and aimless individuals who are violently greedy. Stop it, stop it, stop it and STOP IT!!!!!!

  2. The line that African problems should be solved by the Africans via the African Union is acceptable and positive. However, the involvement of the western power (EU and US) will be seen with suspicious public eyes. Both powers were the financial supporters and backers of the TPLF rule in Ethiopia and were not dissuading it from violating human rights. In the aftermath of the TPLF`s “lightning and preemptive attacks” on the army stationed in Tigray and ignition of the conflict, these same powers have been pressing the victim (the government) and tabling draft resolutions at the UN, as their covert political support to the TPLF. This is in short how they lost credibility in the eyes of peace loving Ethiopians.

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