The U.S. government’s special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, visited the region last week, meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen on Nov. 3 to initiate what he described as attempts to establish “discreet negotiations” between the parties.
Every attempt to convince Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of the need for negotiations seems to have failed, as confirmed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who told to the press that he had spoken with the Prime Minister on November 3 and offered his personal commitment to start talks and stop the violence. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed would have declined any offer from Guterres, thus convincing the UN Security Council of the need to organize an extraordinary meeting on November 5, during which the parties were formally and unanimously asked to cease violence and seek dialogue.
On November 6, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a telephone conversation with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, with whom he discussed the main regional security issues and in particular the evolution of the crisis in Ethiopia.
Both have expressed their concerns about the evolution of the conflict and the impossibility of promoting an effective dialogue between the parties in order to suspend the ongoing violence. Kenya also feels the real fear of a humanitarian crisis capable of generating uncontrollable flows of refugees in the region, with the risk of further aggravating the already precarious state of regional equilibrium.
The President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta had already launched on November 3 an invitation to the warring parties to immediately cease the violence and seek dialogue, asking especially to the Federal Government of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to act in the direction of an effective truce.
Kenya strongly fears not only the possibility of having to manage large masses of refugees, but also the real possibility of violence within its own territory as a result of the clash between the different groups fighting in Ethiopia. On November 4, in this sense, the spokesman of the Kenya Police, Bruno Shioso, invited all citizens to pay attention and exercise control of their neighborhoods, in order to report to the Police any possible suspicious event.
Kenya’s fear is that of violence potentially generated by Ethiopian citizens or refugees of different ethnic groups, in the wake of the growing rhetoric of violence and hatred recorded in recent months in Ethiopia.
The political rhetoric of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has in fact taken on worrying tones especially during the last few weeks, and in particular in the last few days, when he defined the Tigrayans as rats, calling on the population to “bury them in their holes”. Messages promptly censored by the main social media, which nevertheless offer a picture of the increasingly tense management of the crisis.
According to unconfirmed sources, thousands of ethnic Tigrinya residents in the capital and in the regions of Oromia and Amhara were arrested and detained in secret locations, through an ethnic profiling that fuels further fears of violence.
Many embassies, eventually, have asked their non-essential staff to leave the country, not hiding the fear of a possible next escalation in the capital, inviting their citizens not to travel to Ethiopia.