African Union and regional powers should not look on in silence as a civil war rages in Ethiopia

Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force are seen during a pro-government rally to denounce what the organisers say is the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Western countries' interference in internal affairs of the country, at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, November 7, 2021. [Reuters]

It is normally said that the first casualty of war is the truth. And in fact, war is a stumbling block to the political, social, and economic development of any country.

Since November 2020 when civil war broke out in Ethiopia, many citizens have died, millions have been displaced from their homes and hundreds of thousands are facing humanitarian crises.

In fact, disillusioned refugees are still coming to terms with the enormity of the civil war as they troop to neighbouring countries.

Simply put, Ethiopia’s political, economic and social predicaments seem to be soaring daily. Unexpectedly, late last month, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 declared he will personally go to the front line to face rebels in the country’s civil war.

He has gone ahead to implore patriotic citizens to rise up for their country and resist the ‘terrorists’. Reading between the lines, it seems the PM has given a wide berth to dialogue-centred conflict prevention and mediation.

And no wonder, he has joined Ethiopia's federal military to annihilate and exterminate the TPLF who have been ruling the country for 27 years together with their sympathisers in the battleground.

Despite being home to the Africa Union (AU) headquarters, the escalation of civil war and gruesome murder of innocent civilians could have far-reaching ramifications to Africa’s second-most populous country and drive it to its knees.

Ironically, the call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for de-escalation of tension in northern Ethiopia and the silencing of guns have fallen on deaf ears while the AU has preferred to bury its head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

Admittedly, the AU's deafening silence and fiddling while Rome burns have caused a lot of raised eyebrows. Taking cognisance of the preceding facts, an armistice should be a precondition for talks in this country that is home to 80 ethnic groups.

A peaceful solution to the conflict that has left thousands of citizens dead, displaced millions, and caused unprecedented humanitarian crises is the only permanent remedy. Diplomacy is better than war and I urge those responsible to call a halt to the bitter civil war.

This is the best time to cease hostilities or the country becomes war-torn and the chickens come home to roost.

All the parties involved in civil war must heed Martin Luther King Jr, the American civil activist’s words, “If you succumb to the temptation of using violence in the struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and your chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos.”

Letter from Joseph G. Muthama, Kiambu.