China to appoint special envoy for Horn of Africa

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arriving for a meeting with Kenyan officials in Mombasa, Kenya, on Jan 6, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

MOMBASA (REUTERS) - China will appoint a special envoy for the Horn of Africa to support efforts to overcome security challenges, said State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Thursday (Jan 6), adding that he had suggested countries in the region hold peace talks.

Mr Wang spoke during a visit to Kenya, which has been active in diplomatic efforts to halt the war in Ethiopia between forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the army of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, which began in November 2020.

"In order to discuss... this matter, to share political consensus and to coordinate actions, China will appoint a special envoy of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Horn of Africa," Mr Wang said, speaking through an interpreter.

China's interests in the Horn of Africa include its large naval base in Djibouti, a tiny country that overlooks a key global shipping route, and it has given large loans to landlocked Ethiopia, which relies on Djibouti's port for trade.

The region is also threatened by instability in South Sudan, where China has substantial oil investments, and by Islamist militancy in Somalia, which frequently spills over into deadly attacks on civilians in neighbouring Kenya, where China also has substantial investments.

Before arriving in Kenya, Mr Wang made a stop in Eritrea, which borders the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray and is involved in the conflict there as an ally of Mr Abiy and foe of the TPLF.

Speaking at a news conference with his Kenyan counterpart in the port of Mombasa, Mr Wang said the Horn of Africa countries should take the region's destiny in their own hands.

"We suggested countries in this region convene a conference on peace in the Horn of Africa," he said.

Mr Wang's announcement comes as the United States' special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, a veteran diplomat, prepares to step down this month after more than nine months in the job, dominated by the crisis in Ethiopia and a coup in Sudan.

Mr Feltman will be replaced by Mr David Satterfield, the outgoing US ambassador to Turkey, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

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