Ethiopia, Ambassador Demitu to Nova: “We are not the ones who do not want peace in Tigray”

The diplomat provided an update on the current situation in the African country, reiterating that the government is committed to mediation efforts led by the African Union and pointing the finger at the TPLF, denouncing its propaganda

1 September 2022

The Ethiopian Government is committed to push forward the peace process to end the conflict and to allow humanitarian access in Tigray, however its efforts are hampered by the Liberation Front of the Tigray People (TPLF) which continues to reject the peace negotiations led by the African Union and to violate the humanitarian ceasefire proclaimed by the government on 24 March. This is what the ambassador of Ethiopia in Italy, Demitu Hambisa Bonsa, said in an interview with “Agenzia Nova” to provide an update on the current situation in Ethiopia, where the conflict broke out in November 2020 experienced a new escalation after the resumption of fighting last week in the western Tigray area. “The Ethiopian government continues to engage in the peace process despite attempts by the TPLF to obstruct it. The TPLF launched a new offensive deliberately violating the humanitarian truce proclaimed by the government on 24 March”, said the ambassador stressing that the Ethiopian government, in collaboration with UN agencies, allowed the transport and distribution of fuel and cash in recent months and in July appointed members of the negotiating team to start peace talks. “This demonstrates the commitment of the Ethiopian government to follow a constructive approach to starting peace negotiations,” said Demitu.

With regard to the role of mediator in the peace negotiations, the Ambassador pointed out that Ethiopia had never refused Kenya’s mediation, but which simply intends to give confidence to the role played by the African Union for about a year through its special envoy, the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. “The AU mediation efforts began about a year ago and the Ethiopian government believes that the proliferation of peace efforts is confusing. We are determined to continue with the mediation efforts of the AU led by former Nigerian President Obasanjo. The TPLF is not interested in peace, regardless of mediators. We have never refused the mediation of Kenya, we simply started with the mediation of the AU and we intend to continue with this, otherwise it creates confusion. The process is ongoing, let’s respect it. Let’s conclude what we started, then decide on the possible involvement of other actors such as the UN. We do not oppose anyone but we intend to respect the mediation role of the AU”, the Ethiopian diplomat reiterated.

With regard to the restoration of basic services in the Tigray and other conflict regions (Amhara and Afar), the ambassador stressed the need to ensure security conditions and that this is done through an agreement between the parties for a lasting ceasefire. “The TPLF denounces the fact that telephone lines, banks and electricity are out of use: it is true, but they have destroyed them in the last two years,” accused the diplomat. “We are ready to restore telecom services, banks and energy, but to do that we need experienced technicians and this requires trust and security that are not there at the moment. The government’s commitment to facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid to our needy people in Tigray is beyond doubt. Humanitarian access was improving enormously until the TPLF decided to stop it on August 24, when the conflict rekindled. An example is the more than half a million litres of fuel stolen by Tplf from Pam and others. The Secretary-General of the United Nations (Antonio Guterres) and many others have condemned the thefts of the TPLF”, he stressed. As for the human rights violations, and the accusations made in this sense by the TPLF against the Ethiopian government and its troops, the ambassador Demitu spoke openly of “propaganda” although these allegations have often been confirmed by several international organizations such as the UN agencies, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“These allegations have been investigated by the UN Commission – specially set up last December – but so far they have only gone in one direction and have not covered certain areas in Amhara and Afar, where widespread violations have been committed. Other areas also need to be investigated,” the ambassador noted, without, however, denying that violations have been committed on the federal side. “The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the AU have investigated and it has emerged that human rights violations have been committed. The government has taken action in this regard, but there have also been violations on the other side for which the Tplf must answer,” she added, branding as “false” the news of the bombing of a hospital and a kindergarten in Mekelle, circulated in recent days by Tplf spokesman Getachew Reda, and confirmed by both the director of Ayder Hospital, Kibrom Gebreselassie, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). “These reports are the result of Tplf propaganda that creates fake news. The Ethiopian government does not attack civilian targets, it only targets Tplf military infrastructure. In particular the news of an airstrike on a kindergarten is totally misleading since schools in Ethiopia are closed right now. The sources of this news are from the Tplf, which prefabricates false information and incites its young people to confuse the international community. The UN and its agencies often gather false information from TPLF propaganda, they are familiar with their propaganda. Some UN agencies – she then denounced – are maneuvered by the propaganda of the TPLF: for example the WHO (World Health Organization) openly side for the TPLF even if it should not have political positions, beginning from its Director General Tedros (Adhanom Ghebreyesus, of Tigrinya ethnicity and exponent of the TPLF) which is a clear example of false information propaganda and has no moral authority to lead the agency”.

As for relations with its bulky neighbour, Eritrea, believed by many to be the true architect of the conflict in the Tigray because of the ancient hostility of its president Isaias Afwerki towards the TPLF, The ambassador denied these allegations and made it clear that Ethiopia retains its independence. “Eritrea and Ethiopia are good neighbours but they are two distinct countries. The TPLF launched missile attacks in Asmara (in November 2020) which sent its soldiers to the border. This is a defensive war“, he then stressed the diplomat, reiterating that from the Ethiopian point of view the deep causes that led to the outbreak of the conflict, and that prevent the start of a serious peace process, should be sought in the struggle for power by the TPLF. “The TPLF wants power, there’s no other reason. We have told them: let’s sit at a table and solve our problems, but they have given no sign of dialogue. You cannot come to power with weapons, Ethiopia has a Constitution that provides that you come to power through elections, however the TPLF has tried to return to government by force and anyone should condemn it. Peace is the only solution to the conflict, the door of the government is open to peace negotiations. Let’s not make preconditions, all we are saying is to sit at the negotiating table to solve our problems,’ the ambassador concluded.