AU invites Uhuru to facilitate Ethiopia, Tigray peace talks in South Africa

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta has once again been invited by the African Union to facilitate peace talks between the Government of Ethiopia and rebel group Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in South Africa. The talks will happen tomorrow (Monday).

Uhuru, alongside the AU High Representative for the Horn of Africa and former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, will spearhead the AU-led process.

A source close to the former President told The Sunday Standard on Friday that Uhuru had not yet confirmed his participation but “he would do in due course”.

The renewed efforts towards peace talks come at a time the Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have captured Shire, a strategic city in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, in a sharp military escalation that has fuelled fears of a deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

The warring parties - Addis government and TPLF - have confirmed their participation.

The AU, which is spearheading the process, in a letter dated October 1, invited Ethiopian and Tigray leaders for peace talks in South Africa.

The invitation letter indicated the talks were expected to deliberate the guiding principles, agenda issues, modalities, format and timelines for the negotiated settlement aimed at laying the foundation for a structured and sustained mediation between the two warring parties.

Uhuru’s inclusion in the talks is key considering that former Nigerian president, now AU Special Envoy for the Horn, Olusegun Obasanjo’ involvement in the peace process has attracted reservations from the Tigray rebel group.

Tigray has openly rejected Obasanjo’s role as a mediator.

So far, none of the parties has rejected Uhuru’s offer to facilitate the talks. The Government of Kenya has already endorsed his peace exploits.

Uhuru’s successor, William Ruto, in his inauguration speech, designated the former president as his special peace envoy in the Horn and the Great Lakes Region.

Uhuru held talks with the US Special Envoy for the Horn Mike Hammer on October 7.

Reflective of the US-Kenya strategic partnership, Hammer told The Sunday Standard they had agreed to work together to bring an end to the fighting and promote lasting peace in Ethiopia.

Under Uhuru administration, Nairobi moderated various peace initiatives in the region, including chairing the African Union Peace and Security Council - the decision-making organ of the continental body for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts on the continent.

Just like Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru pushed the “neutralist do not rock the boat” policy with the rest of the region.