On Wednesday, the second day of the first formal peace talks between the warring parties in the deadly two-year battle in Ethiopia’s Tigray region began in South Africa.
The consultations in Pretoria, led by the African Union (AU), come after a recent spike in ferocious fighting that has startled the international community and raised concerns for civilians caught in the crossfire.
The meetings are taking place at the offices of South Africa’s foreign affairs ministry.
AFP journalists snapped Olusegun Obasanjo, the principal facilitator of the discussions and the AU Horn of Africa ambassador, as he arrived at the location on Wednesday morning. Obasanjo is a former president of Nigeria.
Uhuru Kenyatta, a former president of Kenya who is a member of the mediation team, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a former vice president of South Africa, were both seen entering the building.
Mike Hammer, a US special representative for the Horn of Africa, is also taking part in the negotiations.
According to the South African presidency, the Pretoria discussion, the first officially disclosed meetings between the adversaries, began on Monday and will last until Sunday.
Journalists, meanwhile, have been kept outside the venue’s surrounding gate, resulting in a media blackout.
Negotiators from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government in Ethiopia and local authorities in war-torn Tigray spoke nearly two months to the day after fighting broke out again, shattering a five-month cease-fire.
The return of Eritrean forces to the battle has sparked concerns of additional atrocities against civilians. The international community has been pressing for a ceasefire, humanitarian access to Tigray where many people are starving, and a withdrawal of Eritrean forces.
Amnesty International demanded an investigation into the abuses on Wednesday, claiming that all parties involved had committed crimes against humanity.
According to Fisseha Tekle, an Amnesty expert on Ethiopia and Eritrea, “documented abuses of human rights violations… (including) rapes, sexual violence, lootings, torture, and extrajudicial killings.”
He stated at a news conference in Nairobi that “all the sides, Tigrayans, Amharas, and Eritreans, have perpetrated significant human rights violations, including crimes against humanity.”
Currently, he continued, “we are ruling out genocide, simply because the amount of evidence is not sufficient at this time.”