Olusegun Obasanjo, African Union Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa and Chief mediator of the Ethiopian Peace agreement signed in Pretoria South Africa earlier this month, is in Mekelle.
Former South African Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, one of the panelists in the peace talk, is part of Mr. Obassanjo’s delegation to Mekelle.
It was Debretsion Gebremichal, chairman of the TPLF, and ( later the spokesperson Getachew Reda was seen with the visitors) who greeted them on arrival at Mekelle Airport on Monday.
The purpose of Obasanjo’s visit to Mekelle is said to be an evaluation of the progress of the Pretoria agreement implementation – but the African Union did not release an official statement about it.
A peace talk between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was signed on November 2, 2022 in Pretoria, South Africa. That agreement led to the second round of talk between military commanders of the Ethiopian Defense Force and the rebel groups in Nairobi – which discussed modalities of implementation of the agreement.
There are multiple clues that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is discarding the agreement after it was signed although there appears to be a stated commitment, yet to be demonstrated, on the part of the military leaders of the rebel groups to implement the agreement.
Just a day after the Nairobi agreement, TPLF political leaders released a statement with claims that the TPLF was part of the agreement with the Ethiopian government – both in Pretoria and Nairobi.
Apart from the agreement to disarm TPLF combatants ( which political leaders in Mekelle denied), one of the key points in the agreement was for the TPLF leaders to renounce claims about the self-proclaimed Tigray government status. In the agreement, the TPLF also recognized the Ethiopian government – which was not the case immediately before and during the war.
There are also some minor omens that the TPLF leaders are demonstrating provocative actions. Tigray TV extensively used the expression “Government of Tigray” in its coverage of Obasanjo’s visit to Mekelle which does not seem to reflect the spirit of the agreement. Also, video footage showing Obasanjo and TPLF leaders meeting does not seem to show the Ethiopian flag. Only the TPLF flag was used in the meeting room.
The TPLF leaders reportedly told Mr Obassanjo that “Eritrean soldiers are the problem” for the peace talk. When Tadesse Worede, commander of TPLF forces, had a press conference on Tuesday, he mentioned that there are forces within the TPLF (both political and military) that do not accept the peace agreement and that they could be an issue in the implementation.
According to Mr. Worede’s statement on Tuesday this week, disengaging and disarming TPLF fighters was supposed to be started by now. However, there is no indication that the TPLF is acting in that direction.
In an article that Mr. Obasanjo published last week, he said 600,000 people were killed in Tigray during combat and that the number could rise up to one million including civilian deaths.
He also linked the start of the war with the TPLF action. He wrote “Whatever the history, background or remote causes of the civil war in Tigray region, its immediate cause was not unconnected with the assumption of office by Prime Minister Abiy and the reaction of Tigray leadership to what they perceived as the policies and programs of the prime minister. The last straw was the attack on the northern command of the Ethiopian Army located in Tigray by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).”
The signing of the peace agreement was a relief to Ethiopians including those in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. However, with the latest TPLF adamance to implement the agreement, it is at least questionable if the TPLF will not cause another round of war.
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