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News: US Horn envoy to attend AU-hosted strategic review of Pretoria agrmt

Addis Abeba -U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa (SEHOA), Mike Hammer, is due in Addis Abeba between 7-13 March where he is scheduled to attend “an African Union-hosted strategic review of the implementation of the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF),” State Department said. His travel which extends until 20 March will also include a trip to London and Rome.

“While the guns have been silenced, it is necessary to undertake additional steps essential to achieving a lasting peace, including expedited progress on disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration; sustained action on a credible transitional justice process; and accelerated activities to enable the return of internally displaced,” the State Department’s readout said.

Furthermore, Ambassador Hammer will also meet with Ethiopian government officials “to discuss efforts to advance dialogue to end the violence in the Amhara and Oromia regions, as well as review broader regional issues.”

The scheduled “strategic review” meeting by the African Union is the first since the signing of the Pretoria agreement and comes a week after the Tigray Interim Administration has announced its decision to engage with the federal government regarding the agreement exclusively through the African Union.

“Forthcoming discussions will be exclusively conducted through the African Union Panel,” said the regional administration after the decision was passed by regional council.

The interim administration said discussions with delegates from the African Union (AU), designated mediators, and the federal government will take place in the coming weeks with the aim of addressing the persistent challenges related to the full implementation of the Pretoria agreement.

There has been growing differences between the federal government and Tigray interim administration with regard to unmet expectations of the Pretoria agreement, most notably on the unresolved status of Western and parts of southern Tigray, which are still occupied by government-affiliated forces, and the resultant delay in the return of IDPs and well as the withdrawal of Eritrean forces.

The two sides also have differences in the slow response to the ongoing severe drought that is claiming the lives of hundreds in the Tigray region, and the delay in the progress of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of Tigrayan forces.

On 09 February, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his cabinet members met with a delegation led by Getachew Reda, President of the Interim Administration of Tigray, and senior officials of the TPLF to assess the advancement in the implementation of the Pretoria agreement.

Although the federal government refrained from providing details on the outcomes of the meeting, in a subsequent media briefing, Getachew Reda, president of the Tigray Interim Administration, said that the current alteration in the demographic makeup of western Tigray, combined with the persistent displacement of its inhabitants, precludes the feasibility of conducting a referendum, drawing a stark difference from the position held by the federal government.

Two days ago, the Minister of Defense, Abraham Belay, has announced plans by federal government plans to return civilians who are displaced from western Tigray to their residences “pave the way for a referendum, intended to definitively settle the territorial dispute.”

Abraham revealed a plan by the federal government to establish “a temporary administrative structure in the western Tigray areas, supported by direct budget allocation and local empowerment, until the referendum takes place.”

A report by Addis Standard as recent as January this year revealed that approximately 7,000 newly displaced civilians from Western and North Western Tigray, areas presently under the control of Amhara forces affiliated with the federal government, were seeking refuge in Endabaguna town, near Shire, in just one month alone. AS

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