Jan 20, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

China, US up stakes in troubled Horn with special envoys

China has stepped up its engagement in the Horn of Africa conflict after announcing it would be appointing a special envoy to the region when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed former Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield as the new US Appointed envoy for the Horn of Africa to replace Jeffrey Feltman, who tried unsuccessfully to mediate the conflict in Ethiopia and the crisis in Sudan The region’s political, security, and humanitarian challenges require continued concentration by the United States. Ambassador Satterfield’s decades of diplomatic experience and work amid some of the world’s most difficult conflicts will be vital to our continued efforts to promote a peaceful and prosperous Horn of Africa and advance US interests in this strategic region, “Blinken said .

Beijing’s entry into politics in the Horn of Africa should unsettle Washington, which has been actively involved in resolving the escalating conflict in Ethiopia and the political unrest in Sudan for a year. President Joe Biden has been very interested in the affairs of the region and has acted as the preferred mediator in Kenya, with little success.

In Search of Lasting Peace

The US appointed Mr. Feltman last April to Special Envoy for the Horn, but his five visits to the region last year have done little as Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia are all exposed to constant crises.

In a speech in Kenya, the Chinese said Foreign Minister Wang Yi his The country will send the special diplomat to the region “to support efforts to address security challenges and the search for lasting peace in the region”.

Mr. Wang said the envoy would do so help end conflict and “support peace and prosperity,” but suggested that Beijing not interfere. Instead, he said the countries in the region should “control their fate as well de take “and suggested that Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan hold peace talks and promote peace building.

Nevertheless, the region is important for China, which already has a military base in Djibouti and is investing heavily in Ethiopia, Kenya and is currently building footprints in Somalia.

The war in Ethiopia, where the government takes on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), cannot directly harm Beijing, but it could slow down investment, including ongoing infrastructure construction.

Chinese companies recently completed the expansion of Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, increasing its capacity to handle more passengers and flights.

China has construction too of berths in the Kenyan port of Lamu, which could be more profitable if Ethiopia taps into the port across its southern border.

The port of Lamu should be part of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset) be. a Ksh 2.1 trillion ($ 18.53 billion) project that included the port, highways, railways and airports.

Security threats such as those posed by Somalia-based al-Shabaab – Attacks are caused on the border between Kenya and Somalia, and the conflict in Ethiopia, this could slow down these investment efforts.

Visit to Eritrea

Mr. Wang was also from last week Eritrea’s leader Isais Aferweki, a player in the Ethiopian conflict, where he said Beijing is a “sincere” friend “and” reliable partner “of the countries in the Horn of Africa and is ready to play a constructive role in the peace process.

“Some large countries outside the region have used the Horn of Africa as an arena for geopolitical games in recent years that has caused chaos and conflict in the region,” Wang said in a veiled reference to Western involvement .

But bless you As soon as Beijing becomes embroiled in the affairs of the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia rejects third parties delegated by Western governments to seek dialogue in its internal war, which further destroys hopes of mediation with the TPLF to the government instead of third parties Send.

Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the African Union and Qatar were at the center of the mediation efforts of Washington, whose envoy crisscrossed these countries in 2021 to seek an end of the conflict, which is now in its second year.

Dina Mufti, the spokesman for the Ethiopian State Department, hinted at Addis Abeba’s displeasure at the constant use of third parties by the US government in his weekly press conference Advance dialogue with the TPLF.

“Instead of passing Ethiopia-related matters on to third parties, we invite the US and other countries to join in directly t to contact us, “Mufti, a former Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya, told the media in Addis Ababa on New Year’s Eve.

The official did not name the third parties, but the US recently asked Kenya to to use its strong ties with Ethiopia to encourage dialogue between the protagonists.

In November President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Addis Ababa and met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to hold talks with President Joe Biden in Washington just a few weeks later and just before Foreign Minister Antony Blinken visited Nairobi.

Mr Blinken said during his stay in Nairobi that Ethiopia must choose dialogue, adding that the US supports the African Union’s special envoy for the horn, Olusegun Obasanjo to mediate the conflict.

Respect sovereignty

Kenya has not officially commented on Ethiopia’s sentiments, but a diplomat in Nairobi says te said the country still had “friendly relations” with Ethiopia and did not believe that Kenya’s offer to help a neighbor would be disappointed.

“Ultimately, only Ethiopians can solve their problems. What we have done, and will continue to do, is what any neighbor can do to help a struggling neighbor, “said the diplomat, who chose to remain anonymous.

Mr Mufti in Another interview with the Walta Information Center’s show Don’t Touch Ethiopia suggested that Addis continue to maintain strong relationships with its neighbors through mutual respect and respect for their sovereignty. And with particular reference to Sudan – with which they have a border dispute and an unfinished agreement on the Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam (GERD) – Mr Mufti said Ethiopia believes the Sudanese will resolve their current political crisis.

< h3> Perceived interference

Since the conflict began in Tigray, Prime Minister Abiy has refused to “internationalize” the conflict. He turned down a panel of senior figures nominated by the African Union to seek dialogue and turned down two offers from Mr Feltman to let the two sides speak to each other.

Mr Obasanjo’s offer of mediation as good as failed.

The former Nigerian president had traveled the world, including the US and the EU, to seek support for his mediation efforts, which Ethiopians see as interference.

< p> Mr Feltman was in Addis on Thursday for his last offer to “discuss prospects for peace talks” before stepping down on February 1st.

There was no prospect of dialogue, although the US have declared the opening of humanitarian corridors as the first step.

“We have been saying for some time that we need an immediate cessation of hostilities, an end to ongoing human rights violations and abuses, unhindered humanitarian access and seek a negotiated solution to the conflict in Ethiopia precisely because human suffering, it threatens peace and security in the Horn of Africa, “US State Department spokesman Ned Price said last Tuesday.

He added : “This is in a way an opportune time for the special envoy to work with high-ranking Ethiopian government officials, as the Tigraan armed forces have withdrawn in Tigray and the Ethiopian government says it does not intend to pursue these troops to Tigray.” / p>

For Ethiopia, however, the solution to the conflict is for the international community to stop pressuring Addis Ababa and instead the TPLF. burdened.

Demeke Mekonnen, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, argued that his country would choose between survival and extermination.

“Many outsiders have understood the true nature of the TPLF.

” Some governments saw the TPLF as a Trojan horse to take into account their geopolitical and economic interests in the Horn of Africa and to advance them, “he argued without naming the countries.

“Essentially, the struggle for survival and the restoration of order in the north of Ethiopia has strengthened the unity of the country today more than ever. We want our Western partners in particular to understand what is at stake here. ”Under the blockade that has been imposed on the areas that the TPLF controls, the group must also rise up and reject it.

He was referring to the decision of the Ethiopian Armed Forces, not in Tigray. to invade.

“All Tigrayan Ethiopians in the diaspora should help the people in the region to use the opportunity offered to them for the second time, to think about the existing situation and to act accordingly.”

Despite the announced suspension of the offensives, both sides have accused each other of firing rockets.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said that “dozen” were hit by drone strikes in Axum, Shire and Endabaguna in Tigray were killed.

“These places are very far from battlefields. Any loss Abiy’s forces suffer on the battlefield will result in willful attacks on civilians, “he said.

Mr. Mufti also reportedly blamed TPLF for the shelling of the Abala area in the Afar region, where they reportedly also destroyed a humanitarian convoy.