April 26, 2024

AU urges immediate ‘halt’ to fighting in northern Ethiopia


The African Union (AU) on Friday said it was deeply concerned about “escalating tensions between local communities” in a disputed area of northern Ethiopia and asked all parties to “urgently halt hostilities”.

According to the UN, over 50,000 people have been displaced by this month’s clashes in Alamata Town, Raya Alamata, Zata and Ofla — part of a disputed area claimed by Tigray and neighbouring Amhara.

AU Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat “calls on both sides to urgently halt hostilities and ensure the safety of civilians to end the renewed displacement of the local population,” the AU said in a statement.

He also “calls for the commencement of the political dialogue, which is the most viable means to respond to the issues of contested areas”.

Amhara forces occupied Raya Alamata in southern Tigray during a two-year war between Ethiopia’s government and regional Tigrayan authorities.

According to a peace deal signed in November 2022, Amhara forces — who backed federal troops during the conflict — were due to withdraw from Raya Alamata.

The Amhara regional administration last week accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front party (TPLF), which controls Tigray, of “invading” Raya Alamata and other areas “which have identity questions”.

Getachew Reda, a senior TPLF member who heads the Tigray regional administration, said on X last week that the recent developments were “the work of diehard enemies of the Pretoria agreement trying to take advantage of real or perceived differences to derail” the peace deal.

Reports of the fighting have sparked alarm among the international community.

The embassies of several nations including the United States, Japan, Britain and France last week called for dialogue, urging the “de-escalation and protection of civilians”.

Neither the federal government nor Tigrayan authorities have responded to AFP requests for information and the identity of the fighters involved remains unclear.

It is impossible to verify the situation on the ground independently as media access to northern Ethiopia is heavily restricted.

A mosaic of more than 80 ethno-linguistic communities, Ethiopia has endured multiple conflicts over identity and territorial claims in recent years.