Saturday

8th May 2021

Letter

'We call on the EU to appoint a Horn of Africa envoy'

  • Axum airport in northern Ethiopia, in 2016. The airport was destroyed by forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front at the weekend, according to reports (Photo: Matt Tempest)

Dear Excellencies Charles Michel (president of the EU Council), Ursula von der Leyen (president of the EU Commission) and David Sassoli (president of the European Parliament),

A call to the EU to urgently engage in peace efforts for the Horn of Africa.

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The European Union must immediately appoint senior high-level envoys for the Horn of Africa to engage in and provide support to international, in particular African, efforts to curb the crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The UN has called for an immediate ceasefire of all hostilities.

According to the UN, 4,000 people a day are fleeing to Sudan from Ethiopia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has called for a humanitarian corridor to reach the 96,000 refugees and internally-displaced persons in refugee camps in Sudan and in northern Ethiopia.

The UN is already preparing to receive 200,000 refugees in Sudan. An old refugee camp, that served during the 1984 famine, is sadly brought in use again.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has stated the hope that "Ethiopia will be able to find the peace it needs for its development and the wellbeing of its people."

This crisis rightly has the full attention of the African continent.

The chair of the African Union, Cyril Ramaphosa, has appointed three elderly statespersons as envoys: Joaquim Chissano, former president of the Republic of Mozambique; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former president of the Republic of Liberia, and Kgalema Motlanthe, former president of the Republic of South Africa - as special envoys of the African Union. Their efforts should be supported.

Unfortunately, the military interventions are not the only problem in the region.

After the lost harvest due to the destruction by locust swarms, food reserves are in severe jeopardy.

The conflict is now contributing to an already dire situation.

A new famine of most severe proportions is looming. The current crisis comes on top of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving children out of school for six months already. It affects tens of thousands of children in precarious situations, often separated from parents and guardians.

Ethiopia is globally renowned for its world cultural heritage representing one of the oldest human civilisations of which Ethiopians and Africans are rightly proud.

The UNESCO world heritage site in Aksum, other heritage sites and religious centres are now under threat. This tragedy is compounded by a terrible loss of innocent lives, sexual violence and a destabilising refugee crisis.

This regional crisis in the Horn of Africa requires the immediate attention of the EU at the highest level. The EU should call on the experience of statespersons to contribute as high-level envoys to the efforts of the African Union and the UN.

Yours,

Professor Dr Mirjam van Reisen, professor of international relations, innovation and care, Tilburg University

Author bio

Dr Mirjam van Reisen is professor of international relations, innovation and care, Tilburg University.

Plus 51 other signatories, including:

Mark Eyskens, former prime minister of Belgium

Agnes van Ardenne is a Dutch former minister for development cooperation and former ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in Rome.

Genoveva Tisheva is director of the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation.

Malgorzata Tarasiewicz is director of the Network of East-West Women in Poland.

Juan Santos Vara is professor of public international law at the University of Salamanca, Spain.

Professor Dr Conny Rijken is professor of human trafficking at Tilburg University, The Netherlands.

Koos Richelle is a former director-general of the EU.

Lilianne Ploumen is an MP and former minister of international trade and development and cooperation, The Netherlands.

Dr Jan Nouwen is coordinator of global health education at Erasmus University, The Netherlands.

Réginald Moreels is a surgeon and former minister for development and cooperation, Belgium.

Paddy Maguinness works for the Europe External Programme with Africa, Ireland.

Jens Martens is from the Global Policy Forum Europe, Germany.

Stig Lundberg is a consultant in religious affairs, Sweden

Ronald de Jong is a professor of practice, Tilburg University.

Jasper Kuiper is director of Dokters van de Wereld, The Netherlands.

Rudi Friedrich is director of Connection e.V.

Pierre Galand is a former senator and chair Forum Nord-Sud

Roberto Bissio is from Social Watch, France

Iliana Balabanova is president of the Bulgarian Platform European Women's Lobby.

Dr Arts is a professor at Universiteit van Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Kees Zevenbergen is director of CORDAID, The Netherlands.

Ian White is a consultant in Peace Diplomacy, Ireland.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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