Opinion: Special Envoy Feltman is not the right man for the Horn of Africa

A career diplomat and a man who is controversial. Is not the sort of figure you send to fix or amend issues. An outspoken and ideological man like Jeffrey Feltman will only configure the conflicts and the situations at hand for the benefits of American interests. That is what he has done in his position most of his life.

Except for his stint under Ban Ki-Moon in United Nations and prolonged under Antonio Guterres. He has been a career diplomat across the Northern Africa and Middle East. His role in Lebanon and elsewhere is where his most noteworthy from.

Feltman is a person that take sides. When he actively takes sides in divided landscapes as a senior career diplomat. What will he do as Horn of Africa Envoy? I doubt he will wind beneficial middle-ground or emphasis on the common grounds between the parties. He is afraid of the Iranian and possible Turkish involvement in the region. As he also seeks to promote and secure the American interests first.

That means we know that this Special Envoy will be partial and be affected by his allegiance. He will not come with a clean slate or be working accordingly to the problems at hand. This man will not solve the issues or come with clear mediation. No, this man will further U.S. interests. These words are taken from Karim Makdisi who teaches at the American University in Beirut. Who assessed Feltman’s role in the area as an ambassador.

When you are known for things like this and going into the Horn of Africa at his very moment. The person should be less questionable. Joe Biden appointed him since his been a person trusted in the Obama Administration and has a diplomatic record spanning over years. This is a token recognition of that. However, his still a man peculiar fella who suddenly going into a mine-field.

A person who believes in “non-interfering” but interfering to avoid “enemies” interfering. Therefore, that split-personality trait doesn’t make much sense either. Except he lives in a cold-war paradigm with Iran. Which clearly could be shifted to anywhere in the world.

Feltman will pick sides whether it is in Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia or Sudan. This man will also pin-point and look after the U.S. interests. That is why this man isn’t just a random a dude travelling and taking a safari. No, this man will not be the best diplomat. A man who could easily ask for a military government in Lebanon (wikileaks leaked cables proved that). He could easily assess a situation and confess to the sustainability now. Just to buy peace and the comfort of having a U.S. ally on the throne.

As a Special Envoy he is supposed to mediate in Tigray conflict, which has been going on since 4th November 2020. There he will by default have to intervene with the Tripartite Alliance and get vouched by them for talks. However, Abiy haven’t been in favour of any real talks or outsiders looking into it. As that would devastate his image and tarnish his “reformist” mind.

The Special Envoy is also supposed to mediate in the Al-Fashaqa triangle. Where the Sudanese have sent more forces and secured their border points. While the Ethiopian with their Tripartite Alliance have entered in here as an escalation of the Tigray conflict. Abiy have held small talks with Al-Burhan, but nothing sincere. It seems likely that the Special Envoy needs a miracle and I wonder, if he would booster the new ally in Khartoum or try to appease Addis Ababa. Hard to know, but with the likes of Feltman will have to be calm and figure out what matters here.

The last piece of trouble ahead is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and the Nile dialogue between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan. The three has held negotiations and talks, but haven’t landed on a agreement to settle the shared water. This here is both a talk of sovereign use of water sources and how that will affect the up-stream nations. This is why the Special Envoy have to dwindle into colonial agreements and newer ones as well. While being able to play ball with Cairo, Khartoum and Addis Ababa. His career task alone to finalize and be able to please all parties. Someone has to give, but we can wonder who will do that.

The GERD negotiations and talks alone will be more hostile. As the Ethiopian claims in the Al-Fashaqa region/triangle and their skirmishes inside Sudan. The relations has soured over this. That will not help the Special Envoy before even entering. As well, as his intervention or possible mandate hasn’t been granted by any of the parties involved. Who hasn’t a favourable view of American touches here. As the previous administration was taken Egypt’s side and this feeling might linger on.

Therefore, the likes of a Special Envoy in the first place is a noble idea of Biden. Nevertheless, taking a career diplomat should been seen as a positive. However, the history of Feltman and his manners. He can be seen as a spinster for American interests over the needs to salvage peace. This man isn’t the one who should have been sent. Maybe, Biden should have tried to get someone appointed through the African Union or boost IGAD itself. Even though these mechanisms are weak, but joint ventures with United Nations has helped in the past. Therefore, if Biden and UNSC had intervened with a UN-AU prospects into both Tigray, GERD and Ethiopian-Sudan tensions. The possible outcome could have been better and properly monitored by the International community.

However, a Feltman will only serve Washington D.C. and their needs. While being a token American interfering for these interests. He will not be there to be a peacemaker. Just like Abiy isn’t a man of peace either by any stretch of imagination. Al-Burhan and the Sovereign Council is also military men. When there is very civilians and more soldiers on the ground. There is little stopping more conflict. There is a need for mediation and talks between the leaders who orders the battalions.

Nevertheless, Feltman isn’t the man and just by the mere history. It is a flawed enterprise to send him now. Especially, when I cannot see or heard any of the parties have really asked of this of late. The need for local solutions is clear. There is a need for salvaging hope in the midst of the conflict. Feltman isn’t the man to interfere here.

He is getting a false start, as he comes as a forced surprise on all stakeholders and governments. It is not like he has been vetted or accepted by anyone else than Biden and Blinken. They have handpicked him and vouched for him. Now, he has to drop his credentials at all the mentioned capitals and after that pick a leaf for possible talks about the advanced weaponry and silence them as well.

I wouldn’t want to be in Feltman’s shoes at this point in time. First his not the man for the job. No matter about his long career. The reputation he has follows him and makes him questionable at best. Secondly, he has a mandate from Washington D.C. but not from the any of the sovereign nations his supposed to interfere in. Third, the U.S. isn’t that favourable or a “neutral” in these conflicts. Therefore, he has throw a curveball to be able to wing it here.

Feltman is in battles where he cannot win and I cannot see it coming Unless, there is a sudden miracle or a moment of nostalgia … where they changes their stances and gives way. However, that happens in movies, but not in the real world. Peace.

Sudan: West Darfur clashes force nearly 2,000 refugees into Chad (13.04.2021)

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 13, 2021 – Recent intercommunal clashes in El Geneina, in Sudan’s West Darfur State, have forced 1,860 refugees to cross into neighbouring Chad in the past week.

The refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, have fled homes in villages near the border, in the aftermath of deadly clashes that started on 3 April. The resurging violence has reportedly left 144 people dead and more than 230 injured. In the meantime, humanitarian agencies are trying to establish the exact number of newly displaced people within West Darfur, which is estimated to be in the thousands.

Refugees arriving in Chad speak of houses and properties being destroyed, and of sites hosting displaced people being targeted. Some of the new arrivals had already been displaced by earlier clashes last year and in January this year.

El Geneina is only 20 kilometers away from the Sudan-Chad border. Refugees have crossed near the town of Adré, in Ouaddaï province and are currently being hosted just 200 metres away from the volatile border.

UNHCR teams from our nearby office in Farchana have rushed to receive refugees. Our staff report conditions on the ground being dire with displaced families staying in the open or under the little shade of trees or makeshift shelters, with barely any protection from the elements in an area where temperature can rise to 40 degrees Celsius during the day. Food and water are also urgently needed.

UNHCR, with our government counterpart and humanitarian partners are on the ground and coordinating the humanitarian response. The priority is to relocate the refugees to a safer location where essential assistance and access to health can be provided, and quarantine measures against COVID-19 implemented.

Ouaddai province where the new arrivals are crossing already hosts 145,000 Darfurian refugees and UNHCR expects the influx to continue if security is not quickly restored in Darfur.

Sudan: OHCHR – Press briefing notes on violence in West Darfur (09.04.2021)

We are appalled by the latest resurgence of violence between Masalit and Arab tribes in West Darfur, in Sudan, that left at least 87 people dead, more than 191 injured and forced thousands to flee their homes. We are also disturbed by the slow progress in ensuring accountability for this and previous violence, despite repeated calls by victims and their families.

The latest bout of violence erupted on 3 April in Al Geneina town when unknown assailants shot at a group of men from the Masalit tribe, killing two and injuring one. In response, armed elements from Masalit and Arab tribes mobilized, leading to clashes between them.

By the evening of 5 April, the streets of Al Geneina were strewn with dozens of bodies, including those of women and children. These scenes recalled those seen in West Darfur following previous clashes, in late 2019 and, most recently, in mid-January 2021.

During the violence last weekend, public and private property was destroyed or damaged, including a hospital, and a UN compound. At least one ambulance was attacked and health personnel injured.

Similar to previous situations of violence in Al Geneina, the authorities failed to stop the clashes despite a robust security force presence in the town. We urge the authorities to fully uphold their role to protect the population without discrimination. In this regard, we call on the Government of Sudan to accelerate the implementation of the National Plan for the Protection of Civilians.

All tribes responsible for violence in Darfur must be disarmed and the State must be able to maintain order and ensure the rule of law, including by preventing armed civilians from taking the law into their own hands.

We acknowledge that, after the latest clashes, the authorities have taken steps to contain the situation in the area. We also welcome the Government’s commitment to addressing the root causes of the violence, especially disputes over land, pasture and water resources – disputes that are at the heart of the entrenched tribal divisions. These commitments need to result in concrete actions.

Independent, impartial and thorough investigations into these acts of violence must be initiated without delay. Effective accountability processes must be established to pave the way for genuine reconciliation and lasting peace.

We note that the Sudanese Attorney General has announced that 15 prosecutors have been sent to West Darfur to investigate the recent violence. We also welcome the decision to refer 33 alleged perpetrators for trial over the clashes in January 2021, as well as the establishment of the committee set up to investigate a similar incident in December 2019.

We urge the Government to ensure prompt, transparent and effective follow-up to these investigations. All those responsible for human rights abuses must be held accountable. Grievances from both sides must be tackled after decades-long ethnic disputes stoked by the previous regime.

Our Office in Sudan stands ready to assist the Government of Sudan towards achieving accountably and justice.

Ethiopia-Sudan Tensions: Sudan requests UNISFA to kick-out Ethiopian Peacekeepers from Abyei

Since December 2020 the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF), Amhara Paramilitary Group ‘Fano’ and Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) have all been spotted and attacked border points on Sudanese soil. They have gone after border points in and around Al-Fashqa region. The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) have been reported to retake these and stationed more soldiers there.

Just to prove the levels of insincerity from Addis Ababa towards Khartoum. The Sudanese Authorities even intercepted illegal arms export to the rebel outfit of SPLM-N in Blue Nile State. That is what they have been doing and shows how sinister the Tripartite Alliance in Ethiopia is at this current stage. As well, as doing what they have been doing on the border of Sudan and trying to annex Sudanese land.

Clearly, the Sudanese has taken this seriously and sent their Rapid Support Force (RSF) – Desert Shield Force to the borders .They have sent the ones who has tormented Darfur for ages. These folks are the ones who they trust to stop the Tripartite Alliance on the border. That says a lot about their will to defend their borders.

Now the Sudanese has taken it a further step and escalating it further, which is only natural.

Sudan Foreign Minister Mariam Al-Mahdi stated this yesterday:

““Sudan has requested the United Nations to replace the Ethiopian troops present in the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNIFSA) with peacekeepers from other countries,” Mariam Al-Mahdi added.“It is not conceivable to accept Ethiopian forces deployed in the strategic depth of Sudan while the Ethiopian troops are massing on the eastern borders of Sudan,” she said. The minister said that Sudan is now reviewing its relations and cooperation agreements with Ethiopia but stressed that this will not affect the Ethiopian residing in Sudan including refugees” (Koang Pal Chang – ‘Sudan wants Ethiopian peacekeepers out of Abyei’ 07.04.2021, Eye Radio).

When Addis Ababa have been as insincere and been as violent on the border. When they have used all the various alliances to go and attack Sudan. It is only natural that the sovereign state of Sudan doesn’t trust Ethiopian soldiers on their soil. When they have attacked them, illegally armed rebels and been dishonest about their skirmishes as well.

The Ethiopian authorities is calling the neighbours their brothers, but they are coming with weapons and soldiers. That is why the Sudanese see it as a danger to have the Ethiopians as Peacekeepers. That says how much the Ethiopians has destroyed their credibility or trust. The distrust now is shattered and the Khartoum administration only see it fit to “kick them” out.

What will also happen with the changes of Peacekeepers means that the Ethiopian state will not get the profits or the foreign currency for the UN services in Abyei. That is the second price of this. Not only are they demoted and sent home. The Ethiopian state will also loose funds by this action. That is the double strike against Addis Ababa.

The Sudanese authorities are in the right here. How can someone who attacks you on the regular and makes reasons for you to deploy the RSF and more SAF brigades on the borders. A trusted ally to create peace in one of their states. That doesn’t make sense and is a sensible reason to kick Ethiopia out. Peace.

Sudan: Declaration of Principles between the Transitional Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – North (28.03.2021)

Sudan: Council of Ministers – Press Statement (26.03.2021)

Ethiopia-Sudan Tensions: The tormentors of Darfur sent to the border region

Since 13th December 2020 the Ethiopian and Sudanese troops have had skirmishes at the border-regions. The Ethiopian army and Amhara Para-Military Group ‘Fano’ have attacked Sudanese territory. This have been amplified and the state are hardening its stances.

Now, the Sudanese are even amping up more. After they have said to retaken border points and their claimed Al-Fashaqa region. This is further extending the warfare from the Law Enforcement Operation in the neighbouring Tigray Region inside Ethiopia. The Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) is stretching their battle-lines and also their manpower in their newest quest.

However, to go against the Sudanese is a risky game. As they will now meet a conning and warlord of Darfur. The Sudanese isn’t just sending new recruits to the borders. No, they are now sending the Janjaweed aka Rapid Support Force (RSF). The state militia co-ordinated and controlled by the Vice President of Sovereign Council Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemiti”.

Hemiti isn’t just anyone. His a ruthless warlord and a someone who has no issues with sending his enemies to their demise. Now, that the RSF is sending its ‘Desert Shield Force’ to the Eastern Borders towards Ethiopia. Expect horrific reports and striking images from the region. The Janjaweed have been a click of murderous mercenaries. These will use all means to settle the score and they will not come with mercy.

This is why the usage of RSF into this operation. Shows that the Sudanese is amplifying their operation in the border region to Ethiopia. There will be more conflict and they will use guerrilla tactics to conquer the Ethiopians from entering.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali should be concerned about this. His ‘Fano and ENDF haven’t met the capabilities of RSF yet. The RSF is another breed than what his used too. The Janjaweed have gone after their own and been a violent force for decades. The ENDF will clearly meet their end here.

That Hemiti and the Al-Burhan is calling them in. Shows their resolute act to defend its border. They are taking it further now. After Ethiopia have breached their borders for months. This is really signalling to the world. That the tension is spiralling out and a full out war between the neighbours.

Its not just a few skirmishes or small brigades going to far on a whim, but deliberate warfare. This is worrying. What is striking that Abiy is willing to have so many conflicts going at one time and not worried about the strain it causes to his troops. He clearly have the idea that his able to overcome any challenge. If not his “Yes-Men” is telling lies to keep his moral high.

This conflict in Sudan is a fools mission. It is now a bloodbath in the waiting. The Janjaweed have been deadly force for years in Darfur. To bring them here is only a sign of future death. There is nothing good coming out of this.

Abiy will indirectly challenge Hemiti, but I don’t think he knows what is coming his way. He should study the Darfur conflict. However, don’t expect him to do so. Because, he will only order the demise of his men on the front. Peace.

Ethiopia-Sudan Tensions: Ethiopia arming the SPLM-N in the Blue Nile State

Sudanese military sources said that the Ethiopian government provided logistical support to Joseph Touka’s forces in Blue Nile, including weapons, ammunition and combat equipment. The sources indicated that the support arrived in the Yabous region on February 27, 2021 AD, and the support was received by Commander Joseph Touka and some of his forces’ commanders” (…) “The sources emphasized that the Ethiopian government aims to use Commander Joseph Touka to occupy the city of Kurmuk with the support of Ethiopian artillery, with the aim of dispersing the efforts of the Sudanese army on the eastern front” (Sudan Plus, 07.03.2021)

Who is Commander Touka? Well, his Commander Joseph Touka Ali, First Deputy Chairman of the SPLM and Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – North. So, his not a nobody and a high ranking commander in the SPLM-N. 

The SPLM-N killed Sudanese soldiers in early January 2021 in Malkan, Blue Nile State. So, these rebels are still active and it is suspicious that the Ethiopian government is supporting and supplying them with arms. That is a deliberate act to destabilize and strengthening one rebel outfit or militia. I am sure the Ethiopian government would be happy, if the Sudanese suddenly begun to give Samri or the TPLF abundantly arms as well. They would be crying out loud and call it interference in their “internal affairs”.

This is a devious act of Addis Ababa to weaken Khartoum leadership in one of their states. Not only have the skirmishes and battles in the Al-Fashaqa region. They want to intervene and use other proxies in the Blue Nile State.

Since December 2020 … the Ethiopian army have entered into Sudan. They have gone together with the Amhara Para-Military Group “Fano” and tried to take control of border posts there. They have later been beaten back and the Sudanese have taken control of the region again. Therefore, they would maybe prefer having battles on various of fronts. This to weaken the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). However, they were able to intercept the ploy, but this is worrying.

The worry is that the Ethiopian counterparts are willing to do this. As the Sudanese was doing the opposite when the conflict in Tigray started in November 2020. At that point, the Sudanese intercepted weapons going for the TPLF. They stopped it and confiscated it. While the Ethiopians are doing the opposite. That says it all of their objectives.

This isn’t a sign of brotherhood, but using optional proxy to weaken an enemy. As the Ethiopian army and Fano has already been attacking the Sudanese … so now they are trying to find other ways too.

The Ethiopian government supporting SPLM-N just says it all. They are not coming in peace, but seeking for more bloodshed. Their motivation is maybe revenge of the humiliation at the border in Al-Fashaqa region. They want to annex more land and the Prime Minister Abiy wants to be biggest warlord on the Horn of Africa, apparently. Peace.

Sudan: Thousands of Ethiopians seek asylum in Sudan’s Blue Nile State (23.02.2021)

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

23 February 2021

Several thousand people fleeing escalating violence in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz region have sought safety in Sudan’s Blue Nile State over the last month.

Tensions have been high in the Metekel Zone since 2019 with several reports of inter-communal attacks in the region. The situation has rapidly escalated in the past three months. The federal Government of Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in the area on 21 January 2021.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is working closely with Sudanese authorities and partners to assess the situation and respond to the humanitarian needs of the newly arrived, many of whom have arrived in hard-to-reach locations along the border.

Benishangul Gumuz is in western Ethiopia. The current displacement is not directly related to conflict in the country’s northern Tigray region which have pushed more than 61,000 to seek safety in Sudan in recent months.

Out of the 7,000 people estimated to have arrived in Blue Nile State, nearly 3,000 have been registered. This number is expected to increase as the verification exercise continues in all the locations where refugees are being hosted.

In the past weeks, UNHCR and partners have already provided humanitarian assistance to nearly 1,000 refugees in Yabatcher, on Sudan-Ethiopia border. Refugees have received food, access to health, water and sanitation facilities, and aid supplies.

The majority of these asylum-seekers are living among the Sudanese host community who continue to welcome people seeking safety. UNHCR and partners will continue to ramp up the response to support the government in its response.

Ethiopia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Press Statement on Ethiopia-Sudan Border (18.02.2021)