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Ethiopian Crisis: Tigray rebels ready to accept ceasefire and AU-led peace process

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The aftermath of an airstrike in Mekele, capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. AP

Ethiopia’s Tigray rebels said on Sunday they were ready for a ceasefire and would accept a peace process led by the African Union, removing an obstacle to negotiations with the Addis Ababa government to end almost two years of fighting.

The announcement was made following a flurry of international diplomacy after fighting flared in August for the first time in several months in northern Ethiopia, ending a humanitarian truce.

“The government of Tigray is prepared to participate in a robust peace process under the auspices of the African Union,” said a statement by the Tigrayan authorities.

“Furthermore, we are ready to abide by an immediate and mutually agreed cessation of hostilities in order to create a conducive atmosphere.”

The Ethiopian government has previously said it was ready for unconditional talks “anytime, anywhere,” brokered by the Addis Ababa-headquartered AU.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has vehemently opposed the role of the AU’s Horn of Africa envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, protesting at his “proximity” to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Taye Dendea, Ethiopia’s state minister for peace, described the TPLF announcement as a “nice development” on Twitter but insisted the “so-called TDF (Tigray Defence Forces) must be disarmed before peace talks start.”

Guterres asked to get Eritrean troops out

The TPLF statement, which coincided with Ethiopia’s new year, made no mention of preconditions, although it said the Tigrayans expected a “credible” peace process with “mutually acceptable” mediators as well as international observers.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael earlier this month proposed a conditional truce calling for “unfettered humanitarian access” and the restoration of essential services in Tigray, which is suffering food shortages and a lack of electricity, communications and banking.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, he also called for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from across Ethiopia, and for troops to pull out of western Tigray, a disputed region claimed by both Tigrayans and Amharas, the country’s second-largest ethnic group.

Civilian population of Tigray in dire straits

Fighting has raged on several fronts in northern Ethiopia since hostilities resumed on 24 August, with each side accusing the other of firing first and breaking a March truce.

The latest clashes broke out around Tigray’s southeastern border but have since spread to areas west and north of the initial conflict zone. The TPLF accuses Ethiopian and Eritrean forces of having launched a massive joint offensive on Tigray on September 1.

The United Nations said on Thursday that the renewed fighting had forced a halt to desperately needed aid deliveries to Tigray, both by road and air.

The March truce had allowed aid convoys to travel to Tigray’s capital Mekele for the first time since mid-December.

Untold numbers of civilians have been killed since the war erupted in Africa’s second most populous country, and millions of people across northern Ethiopia are in need of emergency aid.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace laureate, sent troops into Tigray in November 2020 to topple the TPLF in response to what he said were attacks by the group on federal army camps.

The TPLF recaptured most of Tigray in a surprise fightback in June 2021 and expanded into Afar and Amhara, before the conflict reached a stalemate.

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AU official calls out Germany over leopard jibe that left some offended

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A Leopard 2 tank is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Munster near Hannover, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. - Copyright © africanews Michael Sohn/AP2011

Germany apologized on Thursday (Jan. 26) for using a leopard emoji in a tweet refering to the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Africa. The post that was regarded as offensive by some users was called out by the spokeswoman for the African Union chairman Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The German foreign ministry attempted to poke fun at Russia’s top diplomat during his tour of Africa when it tweeted that he wasn’t there looking for leopards, but using the trip to try and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The tweet, and the leopard emoji the foreign ministry used on its official account, apparently sought to play off Germany’s decision to send some of its advanced Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to back its military fight off Russian forces.

An African Union official questioned the use of emoji, pointing it could be interpreted as the continent being portrayed once again as only about wild animals.

Ebba Kalondo, the spokeswoman for AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted back to the German government account questioning if Africa, its people and its wildlife was “just a joke to you?”

“Foreign policy is not a joke nor should it be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire Continent with colonial tropes,” Kalondo wrote in a follow-up tweet.

The German foreign ministry apologized and said that the tweet wasn’t meant to offend, but rather “to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Lavrov has visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea this week, where he has repeated his claims that the United States and its Western allies are using Ukraine as a tool in a “hybrid war” against Russia.

Many African nations hold historical ties with Moscow. South Africa was one of several to abstain from a U.N. vote last year condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Eritrea voted against the resolution alongside Russia, Belarus, North Korea and Syria.

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Bomb injures at least a dozen people near a market in north-eastern DR Congo

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Congolese Defense Forces soldiers inspect the scene of an attack near the town of Oicha, 30 kms (20 miles) from Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday July 23, 2021.

A bomb exploded at a market in eastern Congo on Wednesday (Jan. 25), injuring at least a dozen people, authorities said.

An unknown person detonated a bomb inside a bag in North Kivu’s Beni town, said Tharcisse Katembo, a local official.

“Damage was documented (and) at least 12 people were injured. They were injured in the lower limbs, others in their upper limbs and others were hit in the head,” he told reporters in Beni.

The victims were taken to the hospital and an investigation was underway, Katembo said.

No one claimed responsibility for the bomb. However, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces, which is believed to be linked with the Islamic State extremist movement, have been increasing in North Kivu, according to the United Nations.

Deadly violence

Earlier this month, at least 14 people were killed and dozens injured in an attack on a church in Kasindi town, which was claimed by Islamic State. It said in its Aamaq news outlet that it planted an explosive device inside the church and detonated it while people were praying.

Since April, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces have killed at least 370 civilians, and the group has abducted several hundred more, including a significant number of children, the U.N. says.

The explosion Wednesday (Jan. 25) occurred in a local market next to a cassava mill, witnesses said.

Danny Syaghuswa, 16, said he was sitting on his motorcycle when a man in a striped shirt put a small bag behind a door, saying he would come back for it, according to an interview with local reporters heard by The Associated Press. “Less than five minutes after he left the bomb exploded,” Syaghuswa said.

Images of the attack circulating on chat groups show people lying on the floor. One woman in blood-stained clothes was carrying a small child.

Violence has wracked eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups and self-defense militias fight for land and power. Nearly 6 million people are internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands are facing extreme food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

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Somalia: Al-Shabaab terrorists storm mayor’s office, killing six

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Al-Shabaab terrorists set off a bomb and stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.  The Al-Qaeda-backed terror group has stepped up bombings in the country.

At least six people were killed on Sunday in an attack by Al Shabaab militants at the mayor’s office in central Mogadishu, police said.

A suicide bomber set off a huge blast that tore through building near the office complex with gunfire erupting afterwards, Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said at the end of the four-hour siege.

“All the six attackers died. Five of them during the fire exchange with the security forces and one of them detonated himself,” Dudishe told reporters.

“Six civilians also died during the attack and the situation is back to normal.” All the staffers at the mayor’s office were rescued, the police added.

Al 0Shabaab, a militant group allied with Al Qaeda claimed, responsibility for the attack via its communication channels, saying its fighters “made their way inside the targeted building after killing the security guards.” Witnesses said the initial explosion damaged nearby buildings and gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of the mayor’s office.

The area was quickly cordoned off by security officers, a witness who runs a business near the offices said.

Another witness, Omar Nur, said he was inside a nearby mall when the explosion went off and “was lucky to have escaped safely.” The Al Shabaab militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally backed central government for 15 years, carrying out attacks both in Somalia and neighbouring countries.

The latest attack comes days after seven soldiers were killed on Friday at a military camp in Galcad, a town in central Somalia about 375 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu. The US military said the attack — in the Somali town retaken by the army this week — involved more than 100 Al Shabaab jihadists.

“The combined actions by partner forces on the ground and the collective self-defence strike is estimated to have resulted in three destroyed vehicles and approximately thirty Al Shabaab terrorists killed” the US military command for Africa (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

Source: Dawn

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