AU extends Olusegun Obasanjo mission amid Ethiopia peace push

Olusegun Obasanjo

Nigeria's ex-president and head of a joint mission launched by the African Union Olusegun Obasanjo speaks to the press on Feburary 25, 2012 in Dakar. 

Photo credit: AFP

The African Union said on Saturday it has extended the mandate of Horn of Africa envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, who is leading a renewed push for peace in Ethiopia after a resurgence of fighting.

The move comes despite Tigrayan rebels rejecting the role of Obasanjo in any negotiations to end the brutal 22-month war with government forces and their allies.

"I reiterated my full confidence in him and encouraged his continued engagement with both parties and intl actors to work towards peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and the region," AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said on Twitter after meeting with Obasanjo.

Frantic diplomatic efforts are underway to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict after the resumption of combat in northern Ethiopia last month shattered a March truce.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government has insisted that any talks with the rebels must be mediated by the African Union, which is headquartered in Addis Ababa.

But the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has in turn protested at the "proximity" of Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, to the Ethiopian leader.

Faki also on Saturday said he met the new US envoy to the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, and that they "agreed on the need for international partners to support the AU-led process with the Parties to end the conflict in Ethiopia".

Fighting has erupted on several fronts in northern Ethiopia, triggering alarm in the international community and leading to a halt in aid deliveries to the stricken Tigray region.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael earlier this week proposed a conditional truce in a letter sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and called for the creation of a "credible" panel of international mediators.

He said the truce would depend on four conditions, including "unfettered humanitarian access" and the restoration of essential services in Tigray, which is suffering from severe food shortages and a lack of basic services including electricity, communications and banking.

Debretsion also called for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from across Ethiopia, and for troops to pull out of western Tigray, a disputed region claimed by Amharas and Tigrayans.

The Ethiopian government has not publicly commented on the TPLF proposal.

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