Ethiopia's ruling party said this week it wants the African Union, partnering with the United States, to mediate any peace talks to end the war with Tigrayan forces. But the Tigray People's Liberation Front, or TPLF, has said it does not trust the AU and wants Kenya to mediate.
Some worry the conflicting desires from the two sides this early in negotiations may not bode well for future talks.
"The position of Tigray's government seems to be based around a concern from the outset of the conflict that the African Union commission chairperson expressed some support for the Ethiopian federal military campaign in Tigray," said William Davison, analyst with the International Crisis Group, a Belgium-based research organization. "I don't think the Ethiopian government feels the African Union has much coercive power at its disposal and, therefore, it's a mediator that it's better able to handle."
The AU headquarters is located in Addis Ababa.
Solomon Guadie, a lecturer in law at Jigjiga University in Ethiopia, said he suspects Kenya would not be a neutral party in negotiations.
"Kenya has certain border and environmental issues with regards to Ethiopia," Guadie said. "Maybe that might be involved into any impartiality and factors that may affect neutrality, so I think the African Union is a better place than Kenya."
But Davison said these kinds of disagreements are normal and can be overcome.
"There's no particular reason why the Kenyan government can't work alongside the African Union and its envoy as a sort of compromise solution, and that's certainly what's necessary, given what's at stake here," Davison said. "It's vitally important that these sorts of procedural wrangling don't distract from the parties getting down to talks."
Complicating the negotiations is the fact some analysts and politicians have said peace talks should involve actors in the conflict apart from the TPLF and the government — in particular, the Ethiopian regional governments of Amhara and Afar and the national government of Eritrea.
Eritrean troops joined the Ethiopian government in fighting against the TPLF in the north of Ethiopia, bringing to an end a decades-long standoff between the two nations.
The war between Tigrayan forces and Ethiopia's federal government has raged since November 2020.
An estimated 5.1 million people were displaced by the conflict in 2021. Ghent University in Belgium says up to a half-million people have died because of the conflict, either in fighting or as a result of the humanitarian crisis it has caused.