In a phone conversation with Djibouti’s President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, France’s President Emmanuel Macron “expressed his attachment to Djibouti’s stability in a regional environment weakened by the resumption of fighting in Ethiopia and the risk of a region-wide food crisis.” The African Union (AU), for its part, announced that it had extended the mandate of its special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was tasked with pursuing peace efforts in Ethiopia after fighting resumed at the end of August.
After a five-month truce, the resumption of fighting in northern Ethiopia on 24 August has disrupted the delivery of humanitarian aid, particularly in the rebel region of Tigray, where it is essential, the UN said on Thursday, as clashes intensify between Tigrayan rebels and pro-government forces.
Strengthening the bilateral relationship
Djibouti, the site of France’s largest military base abroad, is strategic for France, which has stationed some 1,5000 troops there. Macron and Guelleh “reaffirmed the strength and strategic nature of the defence relationship between France and Djibouti, as illustrated by the visit of the French government’s minister of the armed forces to Djibouti on 15 September,” the Élysée said in a statement.
The two leaders also “discussed the main projects underway to strengthen the bilateral relationship in the continuity of the President of the Republic’s visit to Djibouti in March 2019″, says the French Presidency. President Guelleh was received at the Élysée in February 2021.
Fighting has broken out on several fronts in northern Ethiopia, causing international concern and halting the flow of humanitarian aid to Tigray. TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael earlier this week proposed a conditional truce in a letter addressed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The truce depends on…
He said the truce depended on “unimpeded humanitarian access” and the return of essential services to the Tigray region, which is suffering from severe food shortages and lacks electricity, communications and banking services. Gebremichael also called for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from all Ethiopian territory and Tigray. The Ethiopian government has not commented publicly on the TPLF’s request.
The AU’s decision to extend the mandate of its special envoy in the Horn of Africa comes despite the rejection by the Tigrayan rebels of Obasanjo’s mediation aimed at ending the war that has pitted them against government forces since late 2020. “I reiterated my full confidence in him and encouraged him to continue his engagement with both parties and international actors to work towards peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and the region,” Moussa Faki Mahamat, head of the African Union Commission, said on Twitter after his meeting with Obasanjo.
Several diplomatic efforts are underway to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict after renewed fighting in northern Ethiopia last month broke a truce established in March. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has insisted that any talks with the rebels must be conducted under the auspices of the African Union, which is based in Addis Ababa. But the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has denounced former Nigerian president Obasanjo’s “closeness” to the Ethiopian leader.
Mahamat also met the new US envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, who has been visiting Addis Ababa in recent days, and they “agreed on the need for international partners to support the AU-led process with the parties to end the conflict in Ethiopia,” he said.
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