The UN said last month it had received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence in Tigray, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Rape has “without a doubt” taken place during the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, a government minister said, corroborating eyewitness reports and warnings from the UN.
The statement Thursday night from women’s minister Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed marks the first official acknowledgement of crimes activists fear have been widespread.
A government taskforce “unfortunately established rape has taken place conclusively and without a doubt,” Filsan said on Twitter.
Law enforcement officials “are currently processing the data in terms of numbers,” she said, expressing hope that perpetrators will be “brought to justice”.
Filsan did not say which forces were responsible for rapes documented by the government taskforce.
But multiple women have told AFP about being raped by Eritrean forces, whose presence in Tigray is widely documented but officially denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara.
Friday marked the 100th day of fighting pitting forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government against troops supporting the ruling party of Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Though Abiy declared victory in late November when the Ethiopian military entered the Tigrayan capital Mekele, the TPLF vowed to fight on, and aid workers say persistent insecurity is hampering the humanitarian response.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, and tens of thousands of refugees have streamed across the border into Sudan.
But humanitarian and media access restrictions have made it difficult to assess conditions on the ground.
The UN said last month it had received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence in Tigray, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
A ‘big’ step Sehin Teferra, founder of Ethiopian feminist organisation Setaweet Movement, told AFP it was “a big thing” that Filsan acknowledged rape had happened in Tigray.
“It’s really, really hard to talk about in terms of numbers and to verify rape anywhere. All we know is it’s happening on a large scale and we know that from firsthand reports,” she said.
Some parents in Tigray are shaving their daughters’ heads and dressing them “as boys” to protect them from rape, she said, adding that her organisation had received multiple accounts of rape committed by Eritrean soldiers.
It is important for the government to follow through on promises to investigate and provide support to victims, Sehin said.
She also called for authorities to investigate rape in other conflict zones in Ethiopia, including in the western zone of Metekel where inter-ethnic violence is intensifying.
“We really shouldn’t forget about other active conflicts,” she said.
“I know everybody’s resources are stretched, but it’s really important to acknowledge that rape happens everywhere.”
UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi stressed the need for a more efficient system of facilitating access for aid workers and distributing aid.
The United Nations’ food agency says it has reached a deal with Ethiopia to expand access for aid workers and “scale up” operations in the country’s conflict-hit Tigray region.
David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), made the announcement late on Saturday amid growing fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray, a region of more than five million people.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 ordered air raids and a ground offensive against Tigray’s former governing party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – after its forces attacked federal army bases in the northern region. Abiy declared victory on November 28 after the TPLF withdrew from the regional capital, Mekelle, and other main cities, but low-level fighting has continued.
Thousands of people are believed to have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since fighting began. Both sides deny their forces have committed atrocities, and blame their rivals for the killing of civilians.
Top UN officials and international NGOs have repeatedly complained about access restrictions to Tigray.
The government and the WFP “have agreed on concrete steps to expand access for humanitarians across Tigray, and WFP will scale up its operations”, Beasley said on Twitter following a visit to the Mekelle.
“Nearly 3 million people need our help NOW and we have no time to waste,” he added.
A WFP statement said Ethiopian officials had agreed to speed up reviews of aid workers’ requests to move within the embattled region.
The WFP’s statement also said the agreement had agreed to government requests to provide emergency food aid to one million people in Tigray and help with transport to hard-to-reach rural areas.
Ethiopian Peace Minister Muferihat Kamil said in a separate statement the government was “moving with urgency to approve requests for international staff movements into and within Tigray”.
The new terms fall “under the existing agreement” between the government and the UN on aid, according to the WFP statement.
That agreement restricted UN access to areas under government control. In early December, a UN team visiting refugees in Tigray region was shot at after failing to stop at two checkpoints, according to the government.
But a senior UN official told the AFP news agency the progress was nevertheless “significant” and would facilitate access deeper into Tigray.
“It’s not good enough to just stick to the safe routes, the secure routes,” the official said. “Our role is to be determined to get to where the last person in need is, and the presence of militias should not really hamper us.”
The WFP statement noted that “armed escorts for humanitarian cargo and personnel will be undertaken as a last resort”.
Tigray remains largely cut off to media, making it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
The UN official noted that “insecure areas [are] were “many and significant”.
A new UN report earlier this month said life for civilians in Tigray has become “extremely alarming” amid growing hunger and a “volatile and unpredictable” security situation.
“Reports from aid workers on the ground indicate a rising in acute malnutrition across the region,” it said, according to The Associated Press news agency. “Only 1 percent of the nearly 920 nutrition treatment facilities in Tigray are reachable.”
Starvation has also become a big concern. “Many households are expected to have already depleted their food stocks, or are expected to deplete their food stocks in the next two months,” according to a new report posted on Thursday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which is funded and managed by the United States.
The report said more parts of central and eastern Tigray likely will enter Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine, in the coming weeks.
The government has played down fears of widespread starvation while touting its own efforts to meet the needs of the population. It says it has provided emergency food aid to 1.8 million people.
During a visit to Ethiopia last week, UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi stressed the need for a more efficient system of facilitating access for aid workers and distributing aid.
“We heard from everywhere, including from the local authorities, that more is needed” beyond what the government is providing, Grandi said.
“The situation as I said is very grave, is very urgent. Without further action, it will get worse.”
Adeoye is Nigeria’s former member to the African and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama says with Nigeria’s Amb. Bankole Adeoye as the African Union’s (AU) Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, the fight against terror in the ECOWAS sub-region will be strengthened.
Onyeama said in an interview with the NoRM‘s known Media in Abuja that he was optimistic that the Nigerian ambassador, who the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government has endorsed, would win the election to the AU position coming up on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7.
“Nigeria has a lot to benefit because we can leverage more easily on the African Union to also support our fight against terrorism in West Africa, including Nigeria.
“And to support more coherently the multinational Joint Task Force of which Nigeria is a leading member, a coalition of countries against Boko Haram.
“So the very concrete benefit is that we would now be able to have greater cohesion between what the African Union is doing on peace and security and what ECOWAS and Nigeria are doing.
“And I think that is something that is not as strong as it should be now,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama described Adeoye’s candidacy as a unique development given the fact that the ECOWAS leaders “have thrown all their weight behind him and endorsed him as ECOWAS’ candidate.”
“It has been very good, a unique situation there because all the ECOWAS countries had candidates, most of them very good candidates.
“And at the level of the Presidents of all those countries, they agreed to withdraw all their candidates and just present Nigeria almost as a sub-regional candidate for the position of political Affairs, Peace and Security.
“Now, one of the main reasons being for West Africa, Peace and Security is number one priority and they also feel that Nigeria as a country has the wherewithal to take advantage of that position as commissioner, to make a difference for not just West Africa but for Africa.
“So that is very very good and the voting is today and tomorrow.
“So we are hopeful because the other sub-regions, Northern Africa, Eastern Africa, and Southern Africa also have candidates. So we still have to battle.
“But the fact that we have the whole of West Africa behind us gives us a very good chance of securing this position,” Onyeama added.
Adeoye is Nigeria’s former member to the African and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
He was Ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti between 2017 to 2020.
Adeoye was ranked overall best candidate in an independent assessment by the AU panel of eminent Africans.
Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.
Every member of the UN Security Council called for increased aid during a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, according to diplomats.
The meeting had been requested by Ireland, Estonia, France, Norway, Britain and the United States.
“Everyone said there should be more humanitarian access,” one diplomat said under condition of anonymity, though no official statement was released after the discussions.
There was never meant to be a declaration passed, according to the same diplomat, though another said the idea was abandoned because African members of the council had said they would refuse to vote for one, deeming it unproductive.
Meetings on the situation in Tigray have been few and far between since the Ethiopian military operation began in November, with African countries, in particular, preferring to treat the conflict as a domestic matter.
But Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.
The Security Council also failed to produce a declaration after other closed-door meetings on November 24 and December 14.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Mid-December announced two deals with Ethiopian authorities that should have allowed access to the country.
But opportunities to deliver aid remain fragile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.
“Very little is being allowed in,” he said.
“What we need is to be able to just get in there in an unfettered manner without having to, I guess, negotiate for every truck, for every box.”
“We work cooperatively with the government, and it’s their country … we have to go through them, and that’s the way it should be,” Dujarric said.
“But there is a grave humanitarian need in Tigray, and at this point, we’re not able to reach the people that need to be reached.”
High-level UN figures visited Ethiopia this week, including the high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi and UN undersecretary-general Gilles Michaud — while a visit from World Food Program chief David Beasley is expected in the coming days, according to diplomats — to try to gain access to refugee camps.
Akshaya Kumar of the NGO Human Rights Watch said: “The Security Council should hold a public session followed by a strong resolution demanding an end to aid obstruction and immediate investigation of war crimes” in Ethiopia.
Yet any attempt by Mulu to exert authority over Alamata is unlikely to go over well.
As rifle-toting militiamen fired celebratory rounds into the air, young men marched through the streets denouncing the former ruling party of Ethiopia’s Tigray region as “thieves.”
The party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), is the target of military operations ordered by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year’s Nobel Peace laureate, that have reportedly left thousands dead since early November.
But the impromptu parade this month in Alamata, a farming town in southern Tigray flanked by low, rolling mountains, was unrelated to any kind of battlefield victory.
Rather it was to hail the release of Berhanu Belay Teferra, a self-described political prisoner under the TPLF whose pet issue, analysts warn, risks becoming Ethiopia’s next flashpoint.
In 2018, Berhanu, 48, was detained by the TPLF for advocating that his homeland — located in an area known as Raya, of which Alamata is the biggest city — had no business falling under Tigrayan control.
Berhanu argued that the TPLF had illegally incorporated the famously fertile land into Tigray after it came to power in the early 1990s.
He was detained for more than two years — enduring beatings and long stretches of solitary confinement in a cave — before pro-TPLF forces, fleeing the government’s assault in November, let him go, setting the stage for his triumphant homecoming.
Now reunited with his wife and four children, Berhanu is back to agitating for the transfer of Alamata and its surroundings to Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south.
“We don’t want to live with Tigray people, who don’t know our culture and traditions,” Berhanu told AFP a few days after the parade marking his return — a moment of joy he said was unrivalled by every other event in his life besides his wedding.
Risking ‘bloodshed’ Raya is not the only place in Tigray where, since the onset of fighting on November 4, some residents have been clamouring for change.
A similar dynamic is playing out in western Tigray, where activists and politicians also accuse the TPLF of annexing land historically administered by ethnic Amharas.
In both areas, Abiy is, at least for the time being, relying on Amhara special forces to provide security now that the TPLF has been kicked out.
Amhara officials are leading transitional administrations in multiple towns and cities.
And the word “Amhara” has been scrawled on countless abandoned homes and shuttered storefronts like a hastily graffitied claim of ownership.
William Davison, Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group (ICG), described what’s happening in western and southern Tigray as “unconstitutional de facto annexations” that “set a destabilising precedent for the federation”.
Some newly-installed officials make clear they want nothing to do with Tigray, raising the possibility of future conflict over the land.
“First we were forced to become part of [Tigray]. Now by force this area is liberated,” said Alamata’s new mayor, Kassa Reda Belay, adding he hoped Abiy would “answer the question of the people” — meaning place the area under Amhara authority.
“If not, there will be a lot of bloodshed, and there will be a civil war,” Kassa said.
Path ahead uncertain It is not clear what the federal government’s long-term plans are for the contested territory.
The Amhara region’s president, Agegnehu Teshager, has said Amhara security forces did not get involved in the conflict to reclaim land.
But Zadig Abraha, Ethiopia’s democratisation minister and an Alamata native, told AFP that the city could one day fall under Amhara control.
“The people have asked loud and clear to be part of it. There is a possibility for that to happen and we will have to wait for some time,” Zadig said.
In the meantime, Abiy’s government is working to prop up a caretaker administration in Tigray led by Mulu Nega, a Tigrayan former higher education official.
“If Dr Mulu Nega comes here, there will be two or more demonstrations against it. We don’t want him to come. From now on… we want to live with Amhara people,” said Kassa, the Alamata mayor.
‘I don’t feel safe’ That kind of language strikes fear into the hearts of men like Hailay Gebremedhin, a Tigrayan who has owned a clothing shop on Alamata’s main street for six years.
In November, when fighting broke out in the mountains around Alamata, he stuffed his sneakers and other merchandise into burlap sacks and ran home, where he huddled for weeks.
Hailay reopened his shop earlier this month because he’d run out of money and food, but he’s not sure what kind of life he and his fellow Tigrayans can have in the city.
“I don’t feel safe here because there are people going around saying, ‘Oh, we’ve defeated them, we’ve broken them, now they will leave,’” he said.
The ICG’s Davison said “there is likely to be sustained Tigrayan resistance if territories are taken out of Tigray, in the same way that Amhara activists have long agitated for the ‘return’ of them.”
There are also some activists who believe Raya should become its own region, belonging to neither Tigray nor Amhara.
For now, though, such voices are quiet in Alamata.
Hailay told AFP he’s afraid even to speak in Tigrinya, the Tigrayan language, for fear of reprisals from Amhara officials and security forces.
As he spoke, he looked out towards the roundabout where large crowds gathered during the parade welcoming the return of Berhanu, the self-described political prisoner.
Planted in the grass was a picket sign that, to Hailay’s mind, read like a threat.
“The Amharas wait patiently,” it said, “but they cannot be broken.”
Regional authorities said on Thursday that troops had killed 42 armed men alleged to have taken part in the massacre, without giving details about their identities.
A total of 207 people were killed in a Wednesday attack by gunmen in western Ethiopia, the country’s Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said, more than doubling a previous count.
The independent government body had on Wednesday said 100 people were killed in their sleep and crops burned in a pre-dawn assault in the Metekel area of the Benishangul-Gumuz region.
“133 of the victims were adult men and 35 were adult women. Seventeen children, one of whom a six-month-old baby, and 20 elderly persons were killed,” the EHRC said in a statement posted to Twitter late Friday.
Mostly inhabited by ethnic Shinasha, Oromo and Amhara people — the last two making up Ethiopia’s most numerous groups — the Metekel area has suffered a string of deadly attacks in recent months.
Local leaders blame ethnic Gumuz people for the violence.
Following Wednesday’s attack, “effort is underway to identify the victims with the help of survivors and identity cards,” the EHRC said.
The body repeated its appeal for “relevant authorities to provide urgently humanitarian assistance to the victims and persons displaced by the attack.”
It added that around 10,000 had fled the Bekuji Kebele area and made for the city of Bulen, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) away, which is already sheltering “thousands of displaced persons”.
“Bulen city is overwhelmed. The roads leading to the city are still teeming with displaced persons and their herds of cattle,” one eyewitness told the commission.
“The massacre in the Benishangul-Gumuz region is very tragic,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a Twitter post on Thursday, conceding the government’s efforts to solve the problem “had not yielded results”.
In October, he had said that fighters “armed and trained” in Sudan’s neighbouring Blue Nile state were behind the violence and urged Khartoum to tackle the problem.
Abiy claimed that the latest attack had been aimed at “dividing the significant force” deployed to the country’s dissident northern Tigray region.
There is no known link between the violence in Benishangul-Gumuz and military operations in Tigray.
Thousands have been killed in the Tigray conflict, according to the International Crisis Group think tank, and more than 50,000 people have fled over the border into Sudan.
It was unclear Friday whether the attack on Mekele had begun, or how close federal forces were to the city
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday met with African Union envoys to discuss the conflict in Tigray, where the army is poised for what he has called the final offensive against regional forces.
Abiy, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Thursday announced a “third and final phase” in his campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), whose forces have been battling federal troops in the defiant northern region for three weeks.
The violence has killed many hundreds and displaced tens of thousands more, but there are grave fears for half a million civilians in Mekele, the regional capital, which the army says it has encircled ahead of a threatened attack.
The international community has warned such a strike could violate rules of war and has called for urgent mediation.
Addis Ababa has refused to negotiate with the TPLF and Abiy has rebuffed calls for dialogue as “interference” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.
But the prime minister received at his office in Addis Ababa on Friday three African ex-leaders — Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa — dispatched this week by the AU as mediators.
In a statement issued after their meeting, Abiy said he appreciated “this gesture and… the steadfast commitment this demonstrates to the principle of African solutions to African problems.”
Even so, the government has a “constitutionally mandated responsibility to enforce rule of law in the region and across the country,” he said.
Many attempts, he added, had been made to negotiate with the TPLF before military action was ordered on November 4.
The conflict has erupted in a year when the 55-member AU — which is headquartered in Addis Ababa — resolved to play a more prominent role in resolving conflicts across the continent under the slogan “Silencing the Guns”.
The AU called for an immediate halt to hostilities on November 10 but the conflict only spiralled further, with warplanes bombing the mountainous region and both sides claiming the upper hand.
Humanitarian crisis Tigray has been under a communications blackout since fighting began, making it difficult to weigh competing claims about casualties, and who holds what territory.
The state-affiliated Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation said late Thursday the army — which in recent days said it was advancing on Mekele with tanks — had identified key TPLF hideouts across the city, including an auditorium and a museum.
Abiy, who ordered the strike on TPLF forces in Mekele after the lapsing of a deadline for their surrender, said “great care” would be taken to protect innocents and spare the city from severe damage.
The prospect of a full-scale attack accelerated diplomatic efforts this week to resolve the conflict, with the UN Security Council holding its first meeting on Tigray and US and European officials urging restraint.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who met his Ethiopian counterpart Demeke Mekonnen in Paris on Thursday, called for urgent measures to protect civilians as the humanitarian fallout from the crisis worsens across the region.
The UNHCR said Friday that nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray could run out of food as early as Monday if supplies cannot reach them.
In eastern Sudan, meanwhile, where more than 40,000 refugees have escaped the fighting in Tigray, local authorities are struggling to meet the sudden surge in demand for food, shelter and other life-saving essentials.
The UNHCR said Friday that a plane carrying 32 tonnes of emergency aid had arrived in Sudan, and another airlift with 100 tonnes was expected Monday.
Refugees crossing the border said those still trying to reach Sudan were cutting across fields to avoid detection by Ethiopian troops, who they said were blocking the main exit route from Tigray.
Abiy ordered the military into Tigray after alleged attacks by TPLF forces on federal army camps in the region.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics and controlled its security for the better part of three decades until Abiy rose to power in 2018, beginning a power struggle between the former rulers and the new leader.
A senior Tigrayan official, Wondimu Asamnew, said in an email that Tigrayan forces “have adopted a defensive posture on all fronts”.
Ethiopia’s army chief on Thursday accused WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus — the country’s highest-profile Tigrayan abroad — of lobbying for and seeking to arm leaders in the conflict-torn dissident region.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed unleashed a military campaign against the northern region on November 4 with the declared aim of unseating its ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accuses of defying his government and seeking to destabilise it.
Army chief Berhanu Jula told a press conference that Tedros, who served as minister of health under TPLF leader Meles Zenawi, was “a part of that team”, referring to the party.
“He has worked in neighbouring countries to condemn the war. He has worked for them to get weapons,” said Berhanu.
He said Tedros had “left no stone unturned” to help the TPLF, the party Abiy says he is targeting in a military offensive in the region.
“What do you expect from him? We don’t expect he will side with the Ethiopian people and condemn them,” he said.
Tedros has yet to respond to the accusation.
The 55-year-old was appointed as the first African head of the WHO in 2017 and has become a household name as he grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic. He has been ranked as one of Time magazine’s most influential people.
Abiy’s government insists its target is the “reactionary and rogue” members of the TPLF and not average civilians in Tigray.
But observers have voiced concern about Tigrayans losing their jobs or being arrested for their ethnicity.
‘Outside forces’ The TPLF led the overthrow of Mengistu Hailemariam, head of Ethiopia’s military Derg regime, in 1991 and dominated politics for three decades until the arrival of Abiy who was appointed in 2018.
The party has complained about being sidelined under Abiy, and scapegoated for the country’s woes, and a bitter feud with the central government this year led them to hold their own elections in defiance of a postponement due to the coronavirus.
On November 4, Abiy said the TPLF had attacked two federal military camps in the region, crossing a “red line”.
His controversial campaign has seen warplanes bombing Tigray and heavy fighting, while Amnesty International has documented a gruesome massacre.
A communications blackout in Tigray has made claims difficult to verify, but the overall toll is believed to be in the hundreds.
Meanwhile, the UN says a “full-scale humanitarian crisis” is unfolding, with 36,000 people having streamed into neighbouring Sudan, according to that country’s refugee commission.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Wednesday that the Ethiopia Red Cross Society had “transported hundreds of people injured in areas affected by clashes.”
Abiy this week insisted the military operation was in its final phase, and his government has said it is marching towards the regional capital Mekele after a string of victories.
A statement from Tigray president Debretsion Gebremichael said Thursday that the army had “called upon assistance from an outside force, with drones starting to be used in the battle.”
‘Alienating Tigrayans’ Since the start of the fighting, hundreds of people have been arrested for allegedly conspiring with the TPLF, while 34 businesses had their bank accounts suspended for alleged links to the TPLF.
The federal police late Wednesday announced arrest warrants for 76 army officers, some retired, accused of conspiring with the TPLF and “committing treason”.
The government has also said it has “credible and specific evidence” of TPLF operatives working for local and international organisations.
“We continue to receive credible reports of job suspensions of Tigrayan residents elsewhere in the country as fighting escalates in Tigray,” Laetitia Bader of Human Rights Watch told AFP last week.
“Given the incredibly tense and volatile context in the country, Ethiopian authorities should push back against language and measures that fuel intolerance and risk alienating Tigrayans from all walks of life.”
Hundreds have died and thousands have fled the country amid airstrikes and heavy fighting that observers fear could lead to a protracted civil war.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Monday met with Ethiopia’s foreign minister to discuss the growing conflict in that country, urging negotiations between warring parties.
Museveni met with Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, to discuss the almost two-week-old conflict in the dissident northern region of Tigray.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced November 4 he had ordered military operations in Tigray in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
“A war in Ethiopia would give the entire continent a bad image,” Museveni wrote on Twitter after the meeting in the northern town of Gulu.
“There should be negotiations and the conflict stopped, lest it leads to unnecessary loss of lives and cripples the economy.”
Abiy has previously said any talks can’t begin until the TPLF is fully disarmed, resisting calls from world leaders for an immediate end to hostilities.
Nigeria’s ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo on Monday jetted to Ethiopia to mediate in the conflict between the government and the northern Tigray region, his spokesman said.
“He is on his way to Addis Ababa for talks,” Kehinde Akinyemi told AFP on the visit of the former Nigerian leader to the Ethiopian capital.
“He is going there for mediation,” Akinyemi said, without giving further details.
Both the Ethiopian government and the African Union said they had no information on any visit by Obasanjo, who has previously acted as a United Nations peace envoy in DR Congo.
Ethiopia’s central government announced a military operation in the northern Tigray region on November 4 in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The fighting — which has sent thousands fleeing over the border into Sudan — has sparked fears of civil war and concerns it could spread across the region after rockets were fired at an airport in neighbouring Eritrea.
The attack on Saturday was claimed by TPLF which has accused Eritrea of backing the government.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office on Monday dismissed claims from Ugandan officials that President Yoweri Museveni would meet with representatives of both sides in an effort to facilitate talks.
Ugandan officials told AFP over the weekend those meetings would begin Monday in Uganda and would involve Demeke Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister.
“The claims by various news outlets that Ethiopian officials are expected to take part in mediation talks with TPLF in Uganda are inaccurate and not substantiated,” a government statement said.
Tigrayans say Abiy’s government has unfairly targeted them as part of a crackdown on past rights abuses and corruption.
The Ethiopian military has seized the airport near the town of Humera amid a nearly week-old conflict in the northern Tigray region.
The state media announcement on Tuesday about the capture of the airport, 67km (42 miles) south of Humera, came as fighting continued with reports of Ethiopian government forces capturing territory.
“The Ethiopian National Defense Force has fully captured Humera Airport amid [a] continuation of [the] government’s military response against TPLF rebel group,” Fana TV reported, referring to the organisation that leads the government in the Tigray region.
Humera is located in the far northwest of the country near Ethiopia’s borders with Sudan and Eritrea.
A telephone and internet communications blackout in Tigray has made it difficult to verify the situation on the ground.
The African Union on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire.
“The chairperson [Moussa Faki Mahamat] appeals for the immediate cessation of hostilities and calls on parties to respect human rights and ensure the protection of civilians,” the AU bloc said in a statement, also urging talks.
The leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, meanwhile, accused Eritrea of sending soldiers over the border to attack local forces.
In a statement on local TV, Debretsion Gebremichael gave no evidence for what would be a major escalation.
“Since yesterday, the army of [Eritrean leader] Isaias [Afwerki] have crossed the country’s boundary and invaded,” he said. “They were attacking via Humera using heavy arms.”
Eritrea’s government the accusation. “This is an internal conflict, we are not part of the conflict,” Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed said.
‘No rebuffing of anyone’ Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said he is not ignoring international calls for calm over the escalating conflict that many fear is sliding towards civil war.
The violence in the northern area bordering Eritrea and Sudan threatens to destabilise Africa’s second-most populous country. Ethnic conflict in the region has simmered since Abiy took over in 2018.
“There is no rebuffing of anyone by the prime minister. He had acknowledged and given gratitude for the concerns shown,” Abiy’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said in response to a request for comment on a diplomat’s assertion that Abiy was “not listening to anyone”.
“Nevertheless, Ethiopia is a sovereign nation and its government will ultimately make decisions in the long-term interest of the country and its people.”
The United Nations also has pressed Abiy – a former soldier who once fought alongside Tigrayans against Eritrea – to start a dialogue.
Abiy, the continent’s youngest leader at 44, won a Nobel Peace Prize last year for democratic reforms and for making peace with Eritrea.
But last week, the prime minister, who is from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group the Oromo, launched a campaign against forces loyal to ethnic Tigrayan leaders in the northern region. He accused them of attacking a military base.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the latest conflict, sources on the government’s side said on Monday. But Abiy said fears of chaos were unfounded.
Leaders of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region said on Monday the federal government led by Abiy had launched more than 10 air raids against them in recent days.
Meanwhile, the newly appointed Ethiopian army chief, Berhanu Jula, said federal forces had captured four towns in western Tigray where much of the fighting has reportedly been concentrated.
Ethiopian TV broadcast images of what it said were Ethiopian government forces entering the border town of Dansha in Tigray. Footage showed residents celebrating and cheering the arrival of government soldiers.
The public broadcaster also showed images of what it alleged were Tigrayan militia who surrendered. Ethiopia’s air force is “pounding targets with precision”, a military official said Monday.
Neighbouring Sudan has reportedly sent more than 6,000 troops to the border.
Up to 250,000 fighters Tigrayans account for just 6 percent of Ethiopians but had, before Abiy’s rule, dominated politics for nearly 30 years.
They are battle-hardened from the 1999-2000 war with neighbouring Eritrea and from the struggle to topple Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. They and allies number up to 250,000 fighters and possess significant stocks of military hardware, according to the International Crisis Group think-tank.
All-out war would damage Ethiopia’s economy after years of steady growth. Abiy has pledged sweeping reforms to open lucrative sectors such as telecommunications to foreign investment.
Ethiopia Prime minister Abiy Ahmed stated the country has “no intention to harm” neighouring Egypt and Sudan.
Comments that come after months of negociations over the Renaissance Dam, situated upstream of the two countries, have failed to produce any agreement.
Egypt has warned the Dam project could have devastating effects on its economy. As the Nile river’s flow would be diminished to fill up the dam’s reservoir, Egypt would lose on its main source of scarce fresh water ressources.
A situation Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he is willing to avoid.
“I want to assure that we are firm in our commitment to addressing the concerns of downstream countries and reaching a mutually beneficial outcome in the context of the ongoing African Union-led process”, Ethiopia ‘s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, stated in an recorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Regional tensions and a local crisis Abiy Ahmed, whose country is engaged in complicated talks in the region, also faces a major challenge in his country.
Deadly unrest shook Ethiopia as long-marginalized groups, who seek more say in the country’s politics have taken their anger to the streets for the past few months.
The long awaited first free elections, two years after Abiy Ahmed was sworn in as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister have been postponed to 2021.
Opposition members, such as Oromo Federalist Congress leaderJawar Mohammed, have stated the government was using COVID 19 pandemic fears as a tool to stay in power.
Washington’s move comes after Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan fail to agree on unified text on management of disputed project.
The United States has suspended a portion of its financial aid to Ethiopia over the lack of progress in talks with Egypt and Sudan about a massive dam Addis Ababa is constructing on the Blue Nile River.
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt have been locked in a bitter dispute over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which remains unresolved although the reservoir behind the dam began filling in July.
A US Department of State spokesperson told The Associated Press news agency on Tuesday that the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to a key regional security ally “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place”.
Ethiopia considers the hydropower dam essential for its electrification and development but downstream Egypt and Sudan view it as a serious threat to vital water supplies.
It was not immediately clear how many millions of dollars in US aid are being cut, or for how long, but a congressional source told Reuters news agency: “Up to $100m or so will be affected, of which $26m is funding that expires at the end of the [financial year].”
The US move came after the three countries failed on Friday to reach an agreement on the management of the dam following 10 days of negotiations.
The State Department said commencing the filling of the reservoir before necessary safety measures were implemented “created serious risks for the populations of the downstream countries”, according to Noble Reporters Media‘s known link
It added that by continuing to fill the dam, Ethiopia was undermining confidence in the negotiations.
Fitsum Arega, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Washington, said on Tuesday he had been informed of the US aid cuts.
“They told us the issue is a ‘temporary pause’,” Arega said on Facebook.
“The dam is ours. We will complete it through our efforts. Our Ethiopia will have a bright glow through our efforts,” he added.
Protests that erupted last week over murder of popular ethnic Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa kill 239, police say.
The death toll from demonstrations and ethnic violence that erupted in Ethiopia last week following the murder of a popular singer from the Oromo ethnic group has risen to 239, according to police.
Pop star Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, a hero to many Oromo who saw him as the voice of their marginalisation, was shot dead by unknown attackers on June 29, heightening ethnic tensions threatening the country’s democratic transition.
Protests broke out in the capital Addis Ababa, as well as the surrounding Oromia region which is the homeland of the country’s largest ethnic group, who have long felt economically and politically sidelined in the diverse nation.
Officials have attributed the deaths to a combination of lethal force by security officers and interethnic violence.
“Due to the unrest that occurred in the region, nine police officers, five militia members and 215 civilians have lost their lives,” acting Oromia police commissioner Mustafa Kedir said on state television on Wednesday.
Police in Addis Ababa had previously reported 10 deaths in the capital. The total death toll is an increase from 166 fatalities reported last weekend.
Mustafa also said there had been “extensive damage and looting” of government and private property.
“To control this unrest, more than 3,500 suspects have been arrested. They were anti-peace elements who carried out attacks using the artist’s death as a pretext to dismantle the constitutional system by force,” he said.
“The Oromo population should be inclusive of other ethnic groups that live among it.”
Haacaaluu’s killing tapped into grievances fuelled by decades of government repression and what the Oromo describe as their historic exclusion from political power.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – the country’s first Oromo leader – said the murder was “an evil act”. But he added that the subsequent violence represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.
Simmering ethnic tensions in the country of more than 100 million people have posed a major challenge to Abiy, whose efforts to loosen the reins of iron-fisted rule and open up the democratic space have led to increased jockeying for power and influence.
Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for ending a long-running conflict with neighbouring Eritrea, has been accused of reverting to the tactics of his predecessors, with a wave of arrests of prominent opposition politicians during the last week’s protests.
Five senior members of the Oromo Liberation Front were arrested, including Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba from the Oromo Federalist Congress. Eskinder Nega, a longtime government critic who had recently spoken out against government policies he argues favour the Oromo, was also arrested.
Haacaaluu, 36, was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of Addis Ababa. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Free and fair elections planned for August have been postponed due to the coronavirus epidemic, as Ethiopia prepares for its democratic transition under Abiy, who is facing the deadliest protests since he took power in 2018.
Killing of pop star, who gave voice to the Oromo group, highlights the African nation’s simmering ethnic tensions.
• How Hundessa’s Murder Reveal Ethiopia’s seperation •
Firaol Ajema and his friends, dressed in black T-shirts, have been meeting each afternoon in recent days to listen to the music of Ethiopian pop star Hachalu Hundessa, also known as Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
The homemade shirts bearing the dead singer’s portrait and the slogan “I am also Hachalu” are their way of honouring the man whose murder on Monday sparked violence that killed at least 166 people and highlighted Ethiopia’s simmering ethnic tensions.
“We haven’t been able to properly mourn,” said Firaol, a university student in the town of Legetafo outside Addis Ababa, where security has been tight since the killing. “We are suffocating inside our own houses.”
Hachalu’s death, which remains unsolved, was destined to become a political flashpoint.
In uptempo pop songs riddled with political references, Hachalu gave voice to feelings of marginalisation among fellow members of his Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest.
His music was the soundtrack to anti-government protests that swept Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the country’s first Oromo leader, to office in 2018.
Yet, as Ethiopia prepares for elections that will test its democratic transition under Abiy, many Oromo nationalists feel betrayed, arguing the prime minister has failed to champion their interests.
Opposition politicians claim many of the deaths were instigated by security forces who have fired on protesters in multiple locations in Addis Ababa and the surrounding Oromia region.
Firaol and his fellow young Oromos in Legetafo agree.
“The killing has caused a lot of sadness among us, but the way the government is handling it is even worse,” said Birhanu Gadisa, also a student. “It’s totally unacceptable.”
Contested capital The issue at the centre of this week’s crisis is the historic Oromo claim to Addis Ababa, which many ethnic nationalists refer to as Finfinne, the name given to the territory before Emperor Menelik II founded the capital in the late 19th century.
The catalyst for protests that swept Abiy to power was the unveiling in 2015 of a master plan for Addis Ababa’s expansion into Oromia.
Hachalu’s resting place has been contested with some arguing he should be buried in Addis Ababa, rather than his native Ambo to the west.
“He needed to be buried with respect inside Addis Ababa. Finfinne belongs to the Oromo people,” Firaol said.
Government officials and some of Hachalu’s relatives, however, wanted him buried in Ambo, leading to an unseemly tussle over his corpse.
According to an account provided by federal police commissioner Endeshaw Tassew, a group of Oromo nationalists, among them prominent opposition politician Jawar Mohammed, intercepted the body en route to Ambo on Tuesday and tried to take it back to Addis Ababa, where they clashed with security forces.
One police officer was killed and Jawar was arrested, further inflaming tensions in Oromia.
Two days later, the funeral in Ambo turned deadly when soldiers opened fire on crowds of mourners in a botched attempt at crowd control.
At least nine people were shot, two of them fatally, triggering fresh grief for Hachalu’s fans.
“Even when many people go out to mourn his death, we lost more lives,” said student Chala Tola.
‘Eyes of the Oromo’ Hachalu is now buried, but the divisions his killing has exposed will shape Ethiopian politics in the months to come.
Jawar remains jailed, alongside another prominent Oromo politician, Bekele Gerba. Officials have provided scant information about the charges against the two men who are due to appear in court this month.
And, as Hachalu made clear in one of his final interviews, Oromo nationalists’ grievances are deeper than recent events. Last month the singer called for the removal of a statue of Emperor Menelik II from the capital’s Piasa neighbourhood.
While Menelik is widely respected as the creator of modern-day Ethiopia, for Oromo nationalists he embodies a system of marginalisation.
During the recent protests, a crowd advanced on the statue, seemingly intent on toppling it to make Hachalu’s wish a reality, but security forces pushed them back. City police officers have been stationed around the statue since.
For Firaol, back in Legetafo, that Hachalu is dead and the statue stands says everything he needs to know about the government’s priorities.
“While they should have been protecting this guy, they have been protecting the statue,” he said. “For me Hachalu was not one person. He was the eyes of the Oromo people, and now they have blinded us.”
• Hundessa’s Murder caused protest in Ethiopia, 166 killed – 167 injured and over 1,000 arrested, 5 murder suspect nabbed •
Police confirm at least 166 deaths in violent protests over killing of popular Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa.
At least 166 people have died during violent demonstrations that roiled Ethiopia in the days following the murder of popular singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa, police said.
“In the aftermath of Hachalu’s death, 145 civilians and 11 security forces have lost their lives in the unrest in the region,” said Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner of Oromia region, in a statement on the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate on Saturday.
Another 10 people are known to have died in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Girma said a further 167 had “sustained serious injuries” and that 1,084 people had been arrested.
Pop star Haacaaluu, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead by unknown attackers in Addis Ababa on Monday night, heightening ethnic tensions and threatening the country’s democratic transition.
Five people have been arrested in connection with his killing.
Officials have repeatedly suggested the Oromo Liberation Front, a rebel group, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, an opposition party, were implicated.
Officials have attributed the deaths to a combination of lethal force by security officers and inter-ethnic violence.
Girma added that the violent unrest had now “completely stopped”.
Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Haacaaluu’s killing and the subsequent violence represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.
Three high-profile opposition leaders – including former media mogul Jawar Mohammed – have been arrested in connection with the unrest, though officials have provided few details about the cases against them.
Haacaaluu, 36, the Oromo-language singer and song writer was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of Addis Ababa.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
Haacaaluu’s music gave voice to Oromos’ widespread sense of economic and political marginalisation during years of anti-government protests that swept Abiy to power in 2018.
Hundeessa was shot dead in the capital Addis Ababa on Monday, sparking large protests in the country.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said the killing of a popular singer and subsequent violence that has left nearly 100 dead this week represented “coordinated attempts” to destabilise the country.
Speaking during a meeting with high-ranking officials on Friday, Abiy did not identify who he blamed for the unrest, though he promised to hold to account those directly involved as well as “those that are pulling the strings”, according to a summary of his comments distributed by his office.
Abiy, last year's Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wore a military uniform during the meeting, a portion of which was broadcast on state television.
Singer Haacaaluu Hundeessa, a member of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, was shot dead in the capital, Addis Ababa, on Monday.
Protests immediately broke out in the city and the surrounding Oromia region.
On Thursday, officials said 97 people had been killed by security forces and in inter-ethnic clashes.
Five people have been arrested in connection with Hundeessa’s killing.
Officials have repeatedly suggested the Oromo Liberation Army, a rebel group, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, an opposition party, were implicated.
Reporting from Nairobi, NRM learnt the president stated the violence was an attempt to instigate a civil war but it has now been foiled.
“He [the president] also said the government is in the process of identifying not only those people who committed the crime of killing of the musician but also the ones inciting the violence in the country.
“The past few days we have been hearing officials saying there could be some external forces, perhaps foreign countries, who might have a hand in these protests,” she said.
Abiy said opposition groups that benefitted from amnesties he granted when he came to power in 2018 were taking up arms “instead of making a winning case through ideas and policy options”.
“A losing mindset cannot give birth to new ideas,” he was quoted to have said.
Three high-profile opposition leaders – including former media mogul Jawar Mohammed – have been arrested in connection with the unrest this week, though officials have provided few details about the cases against them.
On Friday, many businesses and government offices reopened in Addis Ababa after being closed for several days, but the internet remained shut throughout the country for a fourth day.
“Things have now returned back to normal, the security forces have taken control and the streets are calm again at the moment,” Soi reported.
The Oromo ethnic group Hundeessa, 36, the Oromo-language singer and songwriter was buried on Thursday under heavy police and military presence in his hometown of Ambo, about 100km (62 miles) west of the capital Addis Ababa.
He is survived by his wife and two children.
He was a prominent figure in successful anti-government demonstrations that lasted for three years before Abiy, who comes from the Oromo ethnic group, came to power.
During protests that led to the downfall of the previous government in 2018, he became the voice of the Oromo people.
Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in the East African country, but have long complained of discrimination and rights violations.
Killing of Oromo singer and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa sparked two days of protests that left some 80 people dead.
Security is high in the Ethiopian town of Ambo for the funeral of popular musician and activist Haacaaluu Hundeessaa, whose killing in Addis Ababa earlier this week sparked two days of protests that killed more than 80 people.
A farewell ceremony began on Thursday with well-wishers laying wreaths in Ambo stadium and mourning the death of the 34-year-old musician from the ethnic Oromo group, Ethiopia’s largest. He will be laid to rest later at a church in Ambo, some 100km (60 miles) west of the capital.
“Haacaaluu is not dead. He will remain in my heart and the hearts of millions of Oromo people forever,” Santu Demisew Diro, his wife, said. “I request a monument erected in his memory in Addis [Ababa] where his blood was spilt.”
The singer was shot dead in the capital on Monday by unknown gunmen.
His songs had provided a soundtrack to a generation of Oromo protesters whose three years of anti-government demonstrations finally forced the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in 2018. Hailemariam was replaced by Abiy Ahmed, the first Oromo to become Ethiopia’s prime minister.
Following the killing, protests broke out on Tuesday morning in the capital and other towns and cities in the surrounding Oromia region. The military was deployed in Addis Ababa as armed gangs roamed neighbourhoods in a second day of unrest on Wednesday.
“The riots and demonstrations we’ve seen in the past 48 hours were caused by the refusal of the government to have Hundeessaa buried in Addis Ababa,” NRM gathered
“The government felt that was not going to go well security-wise and said he should be buried in [his hometown of] Ambo.
“But his supporters, opposition members and officials thought it was befitting that an Oromo man and leading figure … should be buried in the capital.”
At least 35 people have been arrested this week, including fellow Oromo and media mogul Jawar Mohammed who was held after his supporters tried to intercept the singer’s body as it was being transported to Ambo.
Jawar was a prominent supporter of Abiy’s appointment but became more openly critical last year. His popular Oromia Media Network gives him the ability to mobilise support quickly across Oromia and his power base could pose a significant challenge to Abiy’s party in the country’s elections, originally scheduled for this year but postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ethnic unrest The funeral was broadcast live by the Oromo Broadcasting Network, which is owned by the Oromia regional state.
Police were turning people away from the stadium, according to one Ambo resident who tried to attend but met crowds of people who had been told to return home.
Members of the military, federal police and regional police were out in force, he said
“It is very sad that his body is accompanied by only a few people and security forces are keeping many others away,” one of Haacaaluu’s relatives, who had been allowed to attend the funeral, said.
Abiy has indicated that foreign forces may have been involved in assassinating the singer in an attempt to destabilise the country.
The prime minister’s rise to power two years ago ended decades of political dominance by ethnic Tigray leaders in the ethnically diverse nation.
His rule has ushered in greater political and economic freedoms in what had long been one of the continent’s most repressive states. He was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his reforms and his work to end the conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.
But the rise in political activism has also led to an increase in unrest in a country made up of more than 80 ethnic groups. Abiy’s rule has been frequently challenged by local powerbrokers demanding more access to land, power and resources.
“One of the big questions is who actually killed the musician?” David Shinn, former US ambassador to Ethiopia, said.
“This is the match that touched everything off and I think what you’re seeing here is a great deal of ethnic unrest, which has been touched off by this incident,” he said.
Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard publication, described Haacaaluu as a “larger-than-life” iconic figure who embodied the struggle of the Oromo people “for equality and justice”.
“He leaves behind a legacy of a man [who] is the institution of the consciousness of the Oromo people,” she said.
“When people were out on the street being shot at and being killed, he comforted the Oromo people with his songs of revolution, love and resistance to the system that really oppressed the people and led them to their streets.”
President Muhammadu Buhari will depart Abuja today to attend the 33rd Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
President Buhari will join leaders from the 55-member countries of the African Union to participate in the Summit with the theme, “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”
The President will attend the 29th Forum of Heads of State and Government of Participating States of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the 27th Session of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee (AUDA-NEPAD). The meetings will precede the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly.
In Nigeria’s capacity as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council, President Buhari will participate in the High Level meeting of the Peace and Security Council on the situation in the Sahel and Libya, and High Level Ad-Hoc Committee on South Sudan.
On the margins of the Summit, the President will deliver a keynote address at a High Level Side Event on “Stop the War on Children: Dividend of Silencing the Guns.” The event is co-sponsored by the Governments of Nigeria, Uganda and Norway, and Save the Children International.
President Buhari and the Nigerian delegation will also participate in other High Level Side Events in furtherance of Nigeria’s national, regional and international goals, priorities and aspirations namely, peace and security, countering terrorism and violent extremism, economic development, asset recovery and fight against corruption.
The President will also hold bilateral meetings with several world leaders on the margins of the Summit.
At the end of the AU Summit on February 10, the Nigerian President will commence a State Visit to Ethiopia on February 11, at the invitation of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed.
The visit is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties between Nigeria and Ethiopia and reinforcing cooperation in key areas of mutual interest between the two countries.
Before returning to Abuja, President Buhari will also interact with the Nigerian Community in Ethiopia.
The President will be accompanied by Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State; Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State; Senator Adamu Mohammed Bulkachuwa, Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs; and Yusuf Baba, Chairman House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Others are: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; Minister of Aviation, Hadi
Sirika; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Minister of Defence, Major-Gen. Bashir Salihi Magashi (Rtd); Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; and Princess Gloria Akobundu, National Coordinator/Chief Executive Officer, NEPAD Nigeria.
Also on the President’s entourage are, the National Security Adviser, Major-Gen. Babagana Monguno (Rtd), and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.
President Buhari is expected back in Abuja on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.