Africa: AU Conflict Warning System Needs Urgent Upgrade - Report

Ethiopia Tigray map (file photo).

The Tigray conflict could have been prevented if the continent acted on early signs, according to a report by the African Union released to mark the end of the four-year term of commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat and his eight departmental commissioners.

The report titled Taking Stock, Charting the Future is an accountability statement by the team elected into office in February 2017. The team said it helped reach peace deals in Sudan, South Sudan and supported rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which led to resumption of ties in 2019.

But, the officials said the continental body urgently needs to upgrade its early warning system, which it argues will help stop the fighting before it begins.

"The recent conflict in Ethiopia brings to the fore the need for member states and the AU to invest in early warning and early response systems as well as conflict prevention efforts to avert humanitarian disasters," said the report launched ahead of the AU elections.

The report said the Tigray conflict reaffirms "the need to invest in structural conflict prevention, political dialogue, mediation and post conflict reconstruction and development."

The report is a bold statement for the AU to suggest dialogue and mediation should have been used in Tigray, something the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rejected, terming it instead as a law enforcement operation.

Since November 3, Ethiopia has pursued the Tigray People's Liberation Front, a one-time ruling party in Ethiopia, which Addis Ababa now accuses of being a "criminal clique." In November, PM Abiy ordered a military response to the TPLF after they reportedly attacked a northern command of the Ethiopian National Defence Forces.

Last week on Thursday, the Ethiopian Attorney-General said the TPLF had committed "high treason, crime against constitutional order and terrorism." In an update on the Tigray operation, the Ethiopian AG said security agencies had arrested 349 suspects, 253 of whom were either retired or serving ENDF soldiers, as well as another 96 TPLF leaders.

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