from ADANE BIKILA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
ADDIS ABABA, (CAJ News) – AN eruption of one of the most severe conflicts this year, right under the nose of the African Union (AU), is an indictment of the failure by the continental bloc’s much vaunted mantra of “Silencing the Guns” in the region by 2020.
Silencing the guns is intended to achieve a conflict-free Africa, prevent genocide, make peace a reality for all and rid the continent of wars, violent conflicts, human rights violations, and humanitarian disasters.
Ironically, the conflict has arisen in Ethiopia, the home of the AU. And, it is not the only skirmish afflicting this country in the Horn of Africa.
Tigray, the northernmost region of the country, has plummeted into a deadly war since November 4 when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) staged a revolt against the national administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The rescheduling of the general elections, initially set for August, to a date yet to be announced by next year, was another inciting decision.
Ahmed’s postponement of the polls was because of the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The TPLF went ahead with regional elections in Tigray in September 2020 in defiance of the federal government.
More than 600 people have reportedly died from the ensuing conflict between the regional forces and the national government, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission
Despite international calls for a ceasefire, the armed conflict continues, resulting in more than 40 000 people being displaced.
António Guterres, the United Nations (UN) Secretary‑General, has condemned the violence in the Tigray, mostly the regional capital, Mekelle, where hundreds of aid workers have been trapped.
“He (Guterres) urges the leaders of Ethiopia to do everything possible to protect civilians, uphold human rights and ensure humanitarian access for the provision of much-needed assistance,” the UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson, said.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the AU chairperson, is making frantic efforts to curb the tensions that fly in the face of the objective of Silencing the Guns.
He has appointed former presidents, Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique), Kgalema Motlanthe (South Africa) and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia) as AU special envoys to intercede in the conflict.
Ramaphosa said the fact that the AU, previously the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), was headquartered in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, was a fitting tribute to Ethiopia’s role as a symbol of African unity.
The South African president said Ethiopia occupied a place of pride and honour in the history of the continent, having resisted colonialism and played a leading role in the decolonisation of Africa.
“It is against this background that the ongoing conflict is a matter of great concern not only for countries in the region of the Horn of Africa, but for the continent as a whole,” Ramaphosa said.
The second most populous country (116 million) in Africa, Ethiopia has been synonymous with conflict lately.
The central Oromia region, the largest region in the country by both population (about 35 percent) and area, has been beset by tensions with the national government.
The assassination of Hachalu Hundessa, the popular Oromo singer, in June has sparked the tensions.
Hundreds of people have been killed.
Security forces and ethnic militia are blamed.
– CAJ News