Nigeria’s former President Olusegun Obasanjo has gone to Ethiopia, his spokesman said on Monday, as various African and European nations pushed for a mediated solution to a nearly two-week conflict in the Tigray region.
“The former president is on his way to Ethiopia right now, but I don’t know what he is going to do there,” spokesman Kenny Akinyemi said. A diplomat in Addis Ababa confirmed his arrival.
Hundreds have died, 25 000 refugees have fled to Sudan and there have been reports of atrocities since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered airstrikes and a ground offensive on November 4 against Tigray’s rulers for defying his authority.
But Africa’s youngest leader, who won a Nobel Peace Prize last year, has so far resisted pressure for talks.
“We are saying ‘Give us time’. It’s not going to take until eternity … it will be short-lived operation,” Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the government’s Tigray crisis task force, told reporters.
“We have never asked Uganda or any other country to mediate,” Redwan added, after Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni met Ethiopia’s foreign minister and appealed for negotiations.
The Tigray flare-up could jeopardise the recent opening up of Ethiopia’s economy, stir ethnic bloodshed elsewhere around Africa’s second most populous nation, and tarnish the reputation of Abiy, 44, who won his Nobel for peace with Eritrea.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which governs the region of 5 million people, has accused Eritrea of sending tanks and soldiers over the border against it.