By Faith Nyasuguta
Both the African Union and the United States have said they see a small window of opportunity to end the war in Tigray, Ethiopia.
This was revealed on Monday as the United Nations warned that the risk of Ethiopia escalating into a widening civil war is “only too real.”
The AU ambassador to the Horn of Africa, ex-Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and UN political affairs boss Rosemary DiCarlo all briefed the UN Security Council.
Speaking in Ethiopia, Obasanjo said that by the end of the week “we hope to have a program in hand that will indicate” how they can achieve humanitarian access and a withdrawal of troops that satisfies all the parties”
Estimates by the United Nations show that 400,000 people in the northern region of Tigray are currently wallowing in famine-like conditions sparked by the fighting.
“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.”
On Monday, the US State Department also revealed that Washington believes there is a small window to work with the AU to make progress on ending the conflict as the US envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, returned to Addis Ababa.
The African Union earlier on Monday morning held a closed-door meeting to discuss the crisis.
The war commenced in November 2020 when forces allied to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), captured military bases in Tigray.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in response, sent more troops to the northern region. Thousands have since been killed while another two million have fled their homes.
Ethiopia’s UN envoy Taye Atske Selassie Amde told the UN 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.
In recent weeks, the conflict has intensified with Tigrayan forces and their allies threatening to march on Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. The federal government has declared a six-month state of emergency.
“It is time to put your weapons down,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said at the Security Council. “This war between angry, belligerent men – victimizing women and children – has to stop.”