Nairobi — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs for Kenya on Monday, the first stop on a three-nation tour of Africa. Blinken will meet with Kenya’s president, who just returned from Ethiopia, to discuss that country’s internal war. Some experts fear Ethiopia’s political leadership will not agree to end the yearlong conflict.
This week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken kicks off his visit to Africa by stopping in Kenya before heading to Nigeria and Senegal.
Blinken will meet Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss East Africa’s regional political and security situation.
Professor Chacha Nyaigotti Chacha, a specialist in diplomacy and international relations at the University of Nairobi, says Blinken’s visit shows the urgency needed for stability in the region.
“To show that there is peace and tranquility in the Horn of Africa, America recognizes the role that Kenya will have to continue to play to support the international community initiatives which are being undertaken by IGAD, the East African Community and by the African Union Commission and the world at large,” said Chacha.
The escalating war in Ethiopia has raised fears of a coup and instability in East Africa’s most populous nation.
The rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front and other armed groups have threatened to march to Addis Ababa to overthrow Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy’s government.
Kenya has been pushing for a ceasefire in the yearlong war, and on Sunday, Kenyatta met Abiy and Ethiopian President Sehle-Work Zewde to discuss security issues ahead of Secretary Blinken’s visit to Kenya.
Murithi Mutiga is the Horn of Africa project director at the International Crisis Group. He says international efforts are being made to help Ethiopia.
“We understand that there is a very significant quiet mediation going on in the background including the Kenyans, the former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and we hope that this will continue and potentially a resolution will be found,” said Mutiga. “But you know the lesson of history has been that the Ethiopians usually try to settle their dispute internally by force. So, unfortunately, we have to be a little realistic about what is possible.”
U.S. Horn of Africa envoy Jeffrey Feltman came to the region early this month, but the security situation has remained the same.
Mutiga says the Ethiopian government and its opponents need to find a quick solution to the crisis.
“We now see that the war has entered its second year with no end in sight,” said Mutiga. “It’s more critical than ever given Ethiopia’s contribution to peace within the region. It’s more urgent than ever that they find a resolution, because continued instability in Ethiopia will definitely have a very significant spillover effect, not to mention the horrible cost internally in terms of lives lost but also an economy that is also in critical care.”
Last week, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on the Eritrean military, officials and businesses to show its opposition to the war. Eritrean troops have fought alongside Ethiopian troops in the north of the country.
The warring sides continue to dig into the crisis, as Tigray leadership push for the ouster of Prime Minister Abiy while the government is demanding recognition before any negotiation can take place.