NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — China’s first special envoy to the Horn of Africa on Monday offered to mediate disputes in the region as Beijing seeks to bolster its influence and shield its investments from conflict. .
“I myself stand ready to provide mediation efforts for the peaceful settlement of disputes based on the will of countries in this region,” Xue Bing told a China-led peace conference in the capital. Ethiopian, Addis Ababa.
The strategic Horn of Africa region is anchored by Ethiopia, recently rocked by war that has spread from its northern Tigray region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said last week that the government wanted no more war. He denied reports that negotiations were underway with rival Tigray leaders, but said a government committee would soon present a roadmap on the issue.
Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond on Monday when asked if the government would accept China’s offer of mediation. Other mediation efforts have been pursued in recent months by the African Union, the United States and Kenya.
Other participants in the Chinese-led peace conference were foreign ministers or MPs from Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Djibouti. Eritrea, notably absent, has joined forces with Ethiopian forces in the Tigray conflict and was among the African countries visited by the Chinese foreign minister earlier this year. Eritrea’s information minister did not immediately respond when asked about the absence.
China’s interests in the Horn of Africa include its first overseas military base in Djibouti; oil investments in Sudan and South Sudan; manufacturing in Ethiopia; and a series of infrastructure projects.
In his speech, the Chinese envoy noted “complex and intertwined issues of ethnicity, religion and borders” in the region and noted that they can be “difficult to manage, as many of them date back to the colonial era. China, like Russia, pointed to its lack of colonial activities in Africa to contrast with several European nations.
“Let us take our share of the responsibility for the failure (of regional peace) and commit ourselves to taking the destiny of our region into our own hands,” said Redwan Hussein, Ethiopia’s national security adviser, noting the interest to avoid “unjustified outside interference and undue pressure. This was one of the themes of Ethiopia’s reaction to criticism from some Westerners regarding the Tigray conflict.
Ethiopia has also been at odds with neighboring Sudan over disputed land and Addis Ababa’s construction of a huge controversial dam on the Blue Nile that will be Africa’s biggest hydroelectric power station.
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