Addis Ababa Summit: AU Mute On Ethiopia Rifts


The African Union (AU) Summit will commence on Thursday in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, where African leaders will convene.

According to AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, the summit will prioritize regional integration and address pressing issues about peace and security, ensuring that these matters remain at the forefront of the agenda.

Ironically, the host of the summit, who should foster peace and cooperation, has been involved in many conflicts in the past three years.

After the Pretoria pact in November 2022, Ethiopia’s two-year civil war with Tigray appeared to be over. However, the conflict has reignited as federal troops have escalated drone strikes against Fano militiamen, a rebel group operating in Amhara, the state near Tigray.

In a recent statement, the Ethiopian Human Rights Council reported that federal troops have allegedly killed “at least 45 civilians” in the Amhara region.

In the Horn of Africa, relations between Addis Ababa and neighboring Mogadishu have grown strained after Abiy Ahmed’s government announced a port agreement with the autonomous region of Somaliland in January, in exchange for recognition of its statehood.

This development has significantly angered Somalia, leading to heightened tensions in the region.

In the previous month, Mahamat addressed a preliminary meeting of the AU’s Permanent Representative’s Committee, emphasizing the significance of solidarity and unity across the African continent, with particular reference to the ongoing conflicts in Sudan and Chad.

Additionally, he advocated for a humanitarian ceasefire to bring an end to the armed conflict in Gaza.

But there was no mention of Ethiopia.

For years, AU officials have refrained from addressing atrocities in their host nation, maintaining a somewhat passive stance – or even supporting it.

Two months after Prime Minister Abiy sent troops into Tigray in 2020, researchers estimated it resulted in 600,000 civilian deaths.

Mahamat expressed apparent approval for the deployment, deeming it a courageous action intended to safeguard the country’s unity, stability, and adherence to its constitutional order.

The comments were made following the dismissal of a Tigrayan security adviser by the African Union (AU) in response to a request from Abiy’s government, which accused the adviser of “disloyalty to the country.”

Around a year later, the AU’s official X account (then on Twitter) strongly criticized the United States for encouraging the warring parties to consider dialogue. However, the account later deleted the post and apologized for it.

Jan Nyssen, a geographer at Ghent University who led its research into the war’s casualties said, “We’ve documented lots of massacres and worked to inform the outside world about such events. But the reaction of the African Union was very weak. The only [African leader] to express concern was Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame who had asked the international community to prioritize the Tigray war in early 2021.”

AU’s Alleged Support Of Authoritarian Rulers

The African Union’s (AU) predecessor, the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), was formally established in Addis Ababa in 1963, nearly four decades before the AU’s formation in 2002.

The OAU was founded to advocate for the independence of African states from European colonial powers and to promote economic empowerment.

Ethiopia, having successfully resisted European colonization militarily, had long been recognized as a bastion of Pan-Africanism and was chosen as the headquarters of the organization.

The Organization of African Unity was founded with the goal of an integrated Africa, largely due to its founders, Emperor Haile Selassie and President Kwame Nkrumah.

The African Union (AU), established in the 2000s, inherited the ideals of its predecessors with the additional goal of promoting democracy.

However, the organization has faced criticism for its alleged support of aging authoritarian rulers, which has been seen as detrimental to the civil liberties of millions of young Africans.

In the fiercely competitive 2005 elections of Ethiopia, then-Prime Minister Meles Zenawi announced a victory for his party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), amidst objections of vote tampering from the opposition.

In the face of accusations of electoral fraud and the killing of opposition protesters, observers from the African Union (AU) declared the election results as credible.

This decision was met with dismay by observers from the European Union (EU) and human rights organizations.


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