The French and German foreign ministers arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday on a mission to support a peace agreement signed last year to end two years of brutal war.
The visit by France’s Catherine Colonna and Annalena Baerbock of Germany began a day after Tigrayan rebels announced they were starting to hand in their heavy weapons, a key component of the November 2 deal to silence the guns in northern Ethiopia.
During the two-day trip, the pair are due to meet Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and other ministers as well as African Union officials and human rights campaigners, and visit a World Food Programme distribution centre.
Colonna said in a statement before her departure that the visit was aimed at “supporting the peace process, the fight against impunity, and reconstruction”.
A diplomatic source said the ministers were carrying a message from the European Union that it is ready to re-engage in Ethiopia provided the ceasefire is respected and that a transitional justice mechanism is put in place.
The devastating war that erupted in November 2020 has killed untold numbers of civilians, displaced more than two million and left millions more in need of humanitarian aid.
Since the peace agreement signed in the South African capital Pretoria, there has been a limited resumption of aid deliveries to Tigray, which has long faced dire shortages of food, fuel, cash and medicines.
Basic services such as communications, banking and electricity are slowly being restored to the stricken region of six million people.
While the TPLF announced it has begun disarming, local residents and aid workers say the Eritrean army and forces from the neighbouring region of Amhara remain in parts of Tigray and accuse them of murder, rape and looting.
Under the deal, the disarmament should take place “concurrently” with the withdrawal of foreign and forces that are not part of the Ethiopian national army.
Access to the region is extremely difficult, and it has not been possible to verify the situation on the ground independently.
The Horn of Africa and Ethiopia in particular are among the EU’s priorities, as China seeks to boost its influence in the region, as illustrated by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit to Addis Ababa this week. (France24)