On 13 – 14 February the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa David Satterfield visited Addis Ababa, during which he held talks talks with Ethiopian government, African Union, and United Nations officials, as well as representatives of humanitarian organizations. Satterfield then went on to Sudan and was due to visit Abu Dhabi for discussions related to developments in the Horn of Africa, but had to cut his visit short for what were described as “personal reasons.”
There was no official announcement of what Satterfield achieved during his travels, nor whether he consulted the Tigrayan government, but with the visit out of the way, the Tigrayan President, Debretsion Gebremichael, appeared on television on 17th February to lay out his government’s minimum conditions for peace.
The background to this is an acknowledgement by Debretsion in a BBC interview that indirect talks were already under way with Prime Minister Abiy’s government.
As Will Ross, the BBC Africa editor put it: “Mr Debretsion suggested that the shuttle diplomacy was having an impact and said there had been signs of improvement after indirect talks with the Ethiopian government. The TPLF chairman told the BBC he wanted a peaceful resolution but added that if necessary they would fight on to protect the rights of the Tigrayans.”
Now the Tigray President has laid out the minimum conditions his government would accept for a negotiated end to the war that erupted in November 2020.
He explained that negotiations were necessary, since: “Time is running out. We all have to know that we can’t remain under blockade and siege.” But he went on to assure the Tigrayan public that “the basic demands of the people of Tigray are not negotiable.”
The minimum conditions include:
- The Tigray Defence Forces will remain intact, retain its weapons and will not be reduced to a policing function.
- Tigray will retain the regional borders established by the Ethiopian Constitution.
- The Eritrean army must withdraw from all of Tigray – not just the western areas seized at the start of the war.
- The future of Tigray will be decided by Tigrayans through a referendum, up to and including self-determination, as guaranteed by the Ethiopian Constitution.
- The blockade of Tigray must be lifted in all its forms.
- All those responsible for genocide against Tigrayans must be held to account.
Debretsion said that the Tigray army remained a powerful fighting force and that if negotiations failed, the war would continue. “The peace initiatives [of the US, EU and African Union] came about because we fought for them,” he declared.
If peace failed, and the blockade remained, he warned that Tigray would fight its way out.
“We will pay whatever it takes to break the siege. If it happens peacefully, well and good. If not, we will do it through our struggle and our might. Our readiness should always remain in place. The peace was realized through our might; we will sustain it through our might. If it fails, we will bring about a solution through our might.