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Ethiopia: Germany and France visit to back Tigray peace deal

January 12, 2023

The German and French foreign ministers are in Ethiopia for two days to show support for a deal that brought fragile peace after civil war in Tigray, and to look for ways to help tackle food shortages.

Analenna Baerbock and Catherine Colonna visiting a World Food Program distribution center in Ethiopia
Analenna Baerbock and Catherine Colonna visited a World Food Program distribution center in Ethiopia holding 50,000 tons of wheat from Ukraine.Image: Florian Gaertner/photothek/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Ethiopia on Thursday for a two-day joint visit with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna

This comes as the East African nation grapples with a hunger crisis exacerbated by Russia's war against Ukraine, after grains, oilseeds and vegetable oils were cut off to global markets by a Russian naval embargo, putting additional pressure on global food prices that had already been rising during the COVID pandemic.

Baerbock and Colonna visited a World Food Program (WFP) distribution center holding 50,000 tons of wheat that had been donated to Ethiopia and Somalia by Ukraine. 

"It is remarkable that Ukraine, which is under attack, is donating this grain to Ethiopia and Germany and France are supporting the Ukrainian grain donations by organizing and financing its transport here," Baerbock said. 

She blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for "using grain, using food as a weapon," which she said had "exacerbated the already difficult situation" in countries like Ethiopia. 

Some 22 million people in Ethiopia are suffering from hunger and the humanitarian situation is extremely critical, German aid organization Welthungerhilfe said. 

"The people here who are suffering from the drought are not responsible for what is happening in Ukraine. Therefore, we have to help them. This is a humanitarian duty," Colonna added.

Baerbock and Colonna support peace deal 

The visit comes a day after Tigrayan forces in Northern Ethiopia started handing over heavy weapons in line with a peace deal signed in November last year

The war erupted in November 2020 between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan rebels, killing untold numbers of civilians, displacing more than 2 million and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian aid. 

"We, Germans and French, know from our own experience that reconciliation does not happen overnight. But without the prospect of justice for the victims of crimes, reconciliation and lasting peace are not possible," Baerbock said.

"The question of accountability is important for us with a view to Ethiopia's future and peace process, but also towards strengthening international law," she said following talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Since the signing of the peace agreement there has been a limited resumption of aid deliveries to Tigray, while basic services such as communications, banking and electricity have slowly been restored. 

"Hostilities have ceased, aid has been able to reach the regions which had not received it... a return of arms [by rebels] has begun," Colonna said, adding that a transitional justice mechanism to punish abuses during the conflict. 

Baerbock and Colonna also met Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and held further talks with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy. Further discussions with other cabinet members, African Union officials, and human rights campaigners were scheduled during the visit.

In addition to implementing the peace process, they also plan to discuss security in Africa, with the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia, particularly, among the EU's priorities. 

lo,jcg/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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