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A Scramble to Contain the Situation in Ethiopia

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Sunday called on the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces to surrender to the national government within 72 hours or face “being condemned forever in the books of history”. Abiy posted a strongly-worded statement on Twitter in English, a language understood in Ethiopia by only a small number. The statement comes a day after Abiy shunned efforts by President Cyril Ramaphosa, as African Union chair, to send three high-level mediators to help end the war in the northern Tigray region, which has entered its third week. Ramaphosa of South Africa informed Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde on Friday that he had appointed former President of Mozambique Joaquim Chissano, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe as special envoys of the AU entrusted to facilitate negotiations between parties to end the conflict in Ethiopia. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement late Friday, welcoming the appointments and commended Ramaphosa “for this initiative” and extended the U.N.’s full support “for ensuring a peaceful, stable and prosperous Ethiopia.” Almost immediately, though, Ethiopia denied that the envoys would mediate between the government and the northern Tigray region, labeling the reports of mediation as “fake news.”