In South Africa: A New Zulu King and the Ethiopia-Tigray Peace Talks

Written by Osetemega Iribiri

November 7, 2022

A New Zulu King

Last week Saturday, October 29, 2002, Durban, South Africa, witnessed its first Zulu king coronation since 1971. The event was marked by President Cyril Ramaphosa officially recognizing the new king, Misuzulu kaZwelithini. The president said, “Our king is indeed officially the king of the Zulu nation and the only king of the Zulu nation.” This recognition is essential in legitimizing his position after a legal tussle with his brothers that categorized his ascension. This recognition also gives the 48-year-old king access to government resources and support.

The AmaZulu king is the custodian of his traditional customs and land. Although the king does not bestow executive power, due to his ceremonial and spiritual role, he wields great moral influence over more than 11 million Zulus, who comprise nearly a fifth of South Africa’s population of 60 million. King Misuzulu became heir apparent to the throne through his mother’s will, the late Queen Mantfombi Dlamini Zulu. She was the interim leader after the death of her husband, King Zwelithini in 2021.

Ethiopia-Tigray Peace Talks

Also, still in South Africa, the African Union moderated peace talks between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigrayan leadership. The mediation team was led by African Union special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria. He was supported by Uhuru Kenyatta, former president of Kenya, and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former deputy president of South Africa. The organizers of the peace talks maintained radio silence throughout the negotiations making it hard to gauge the progress of the talks. Fortunately, after a week of mediation in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, the silence was broken. On Wednesday, November 2, 2022, both sides agreed to permanently silence the guns and end the two years of conflict in Tigray by signing a peace deal. The deal was signed by Redwan Hussien, President Abiy’s national security adviser, and Getachew Reda, a senior leader in the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The deal contains measures for disarmament, the restoration of essential services, a plan to allow humanitarian access to Tigray, reintegrating of Tigray’s regional government back into the central government, and noted that the Ethiopian government would rebuild all infrastructure damaged in the war.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo noted, “this moment is not the end of the peace process, but the beginning of it.” The situation is still fragile, primarily because of forces inside (Amhara group) and outside (Eritrea) Ethiopia capable of derailing the process and tipping the country back into war. Eritrea had fought the TPLF alongside Ethiopia. It is unclear if the Eritrean government had agreed to the deal signed in South Africa. Crucially, it is uncertain if the Eritrean government would withdraw its troops from the region. Equally conflicted is the leadership of Ethiopia’s ethnic Amhara group, who provided political and military support to President Abiy in his campaign against the Tigrayans. They have long claimed that western Tigray, where Ethiopian forces were accused of ethnic cleansing, rightfully belongs to the Amhara region. Nevertheless, the draft deal says the Ethiopian and Tigray sides agree to stop “collusion with any external force hostile to either party.”

The resolution of the civil unrest is very vital to the health of the people of Tigray. The World Health Organization had raised the alarm about the region’s deeply worrying, deplorable state of health. There is a shortage of medical supplies such as vaccines, antibiotics, and insulin, an increase in unrecorded deaths from preventable and treatable illnesses, malnutrition, and malaria, and a growing number of non-functional health clinics.

The conflict between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray government began in November 2020. The Abiy-Ahmed-led-Ethiopian-government accused the TPLF of seeking to destabilize Ethiopia by orchestrating ethnic violence across the country. Also, that summer, Abiy Ahmed had promised to hold the country’s first genuinely democratic elections. However, he postponed them, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. They accused him of unconstitutionally extending his presidential term. Consequently, the group held its own regional elections, claiming a decisive win. Subsequently, Abiy’s government declared the Tigray elections invalid. Overall, the two sides called each other illegitimate in the lead-up to the TPLF attack on the Sero base. Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray after accusing TPLF of attacking federal army camps. This conflict has since killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and left thousands on the brink of famine and severe malnourishment.

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