Can Ethiopia avoid deep turmoil and prioritize peace? , View

Ethiopia’s devastating civil war has recently entered its second year. Conflict between the federal government and the Tigre Defense Forces (TDF) has metastasized beyond the Tigre, intensifying old animosity between the Tigre and the Amhara, and drawn in armed groups from Oromia, Benishangul and Afar, which spread across Ethiopia. Deepening identity-based competitions.

These days the fighting is moving closer to the capital, Addis Ababa, threatening a catastrophic escalation. On 2 November, Ethiopia’s cabinet declared a nationwide state of emergency and there are widespread reports of Tigreyan citizens being arrested without proper grounds. From the United States to Turkey, governments around the world are advising their citizens to leave the country immediately.

Meanwhile, northern Ethiopia is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis, with more than eight million people in need of urgent aid. At least 400,000 people are believed to be living in a state of famine in the Tigre. Two million people are internally displaced and there are more than 60,000 refugees in Sudan. Despite the need for at least 100 trucks a day to meet the most basic needs of the local population, no humanitarian convoy has entered the area since mid-October.

A joint investigation by the United Nations and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and a subsequent report by the EHRC has uncovered widespread abuse, torture and sexual violence against civilians perpetrated by the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) as well as the Tigrayan . , Amhara and Eritrean forces during various stages of the conflict, including some that may have been crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Tigrayan moves on – but the final game remains unclear

Ethiopian government forces have been on the backfoot in recent months. The TDF has occupied significant areas, including major cities and towns such as Veldia, Desi and Kombolcha. The Tigrayans also formed an alliance with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has occupied territory in many parts of Oromia, facing limited resistance from the ENDF and its allies.

The combined forces are within 200 km of Addis Ababa. In Afar, the rebels seek to cut off the main supply route from neighboring Djibouti to Addis Ababa, which would allow them to impose a blockade on the capital and potentially open an important supply line to the Tigre.

But Tiger’s final game is still unclear. They have yet to articulate a coherent political plan or form a coalition that has a chance of gaining national legitimacy.

The Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the OLA recently formed a coalition with seven smaller groups calling for the formation of a transitional authority, but the details of the agreement, which does not include many legitimate stakeholders, remain unclear. Huh. It is still uncertain whether the TPLF-TDF is fighting to conquer the entire country, to secure Tigreyan autonomy in a federated Ethiopia, or to secede.

For his part, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is determined and committed to a military victory, declaring he will lead the army from the front lines, and calling on civilians to take up arms against groups that his government has identified as terrorists. designated as. It holds significant support in Addis Ababa, but the federal government is no longer the only power base in the country. Territorial administrations are leading their own forces and prioritizing their own ethno-federal agenda – not only to defend and expand their territory but to create favorable positions for themselves in a possible future political system. Fighting for it too. A self-sustaining logic of violence is in danger of being established.

limited international leverage

Neither side is ready to listen to the external call for peace. Prime Minister Abiy appears to believe that the international community wants to remove him and that his only option is to follow a winner-all-approach. TPLF/TDF also sees little value in negotiation, especially since its recent progress. Both sides consider each other a threat to existence.

The European Union and the US have exerted some pressure by withholding aid, later suspending Ethiopia from the African Development and Opportunity Act, in an attempt to end the conflict. Sanctions on Ethiopian actors have been put in place, at least for now, to allow time for talks to bear fruit, but their destabilizing role in the conflict has led to measures aimed at Eritrean officials and institutions.

However, these efforts have so far met with little success and punitive action by outside actors has played a significant role in fueling nationalism and increasing resistance.

Mediation will be key to resolving this conflict – but there is no single actor who can handle it effectively. The representative of the African Union (AU) Horn of Africa, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, engages in shuttle diplomacy, but his team needs more support and resources to achieve meaningful progress. The US and EU envoys are also playing an important role in negotiations with domestic and regional players.

Au is in critical condition. It is headquartered in Addis Ababa and its decision-making model demands consensus, making it highly impossible for Ethiopia to take strong action like suspending it. The regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is similarly disrupted by the turmoil in post-coup Sudan, the current presidency. And even before the coup, deteriorating relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa, and relations between IGAD’s Ethiopian executive secretary and Prime Minister Abiy, have made it challenging for the bloc to act as a mediator.

In the absence of a viable institutional mechanism, the participation of regional leaders such as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta is crucial. Kenya, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has avoided Addis Ababa from sanctions (along with China and Russia), insisting instead on an African-led resolution to the conflict. But it has also been outspoken on the humanitarian crisis and urged an end to hostilities. Following his talks with Prime Minister Abiy in Addis Ababa, the Kenyan President also discussed ways to resolve Ethiopia’s conflict with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Moving towards genuine dialogue and reconciliation

The road map for lasting peace in Ethiopia can be prepared only after the ceasefire. For de-escalation to occur, both the federal government and the rebels need to accept each other as negotiators. This would require the federal government to lift the designations of the TPLF and OLA-SHEN as terrorist groups and insurgent groups to acknowledge the legitimacy of federal jurisdiction. The government and the federal states must also allow humanitarian relief to reach the Tigre as an urgency. In the meantime, an independent Monitoring and Evaluation Commission mandated by the United Nations could be set up to oversee the ceasefire.

This will then require all parties to recognize the wider need to find a new political settlement and address Ethiopia’s deep-rooted structural problems. They must begin working towards reconciling their conflicting historical narratives, agreeing on the division of power between the center and the regions, managing demands for ethno-linguistic self-determination, and resolving territorial disputes.

To move forward peacefully, Ethiopia’s leaders will need to find a way to accommodate competing ideological perspectives and create an approach to governance by consensus. This can happen only through a national dialogue and an inclusive transitional process.

The Dialogue Forum, previously set up by the Ministry of Peace and seven local civil society organizations, became impotent due to unequal relations and divergent interests. Thus, its replacement would need to be free from government interference, give greater power to civil society, and promote peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.

The transitional process should involve the federal government, rebel movements and senior opposition party leaders – such as Jawar Mohamed, Bekele Gerba and Eskinder Nega – as well as civil society groups, religious leaders and eminent figures.

Such an inclusive process can lead to an interim government of national unity recognized by all stakeholders. This government, which would have a short, pre-determined term, could implement institutional reforms to strengthen the federal project and allow for de facto transfer, a route to national elections that meet local expectations and international standards. Will pave it

A transitional justice strategy – essential for social healing and for holding perpetrators of torture accountable – must also be developed. In addition, stakeholders must agree on the management of the Autonomous Regional Security Forces and the process of regrouping the national army. International partners can support this process with resources and technical expertise.

For all this to happen, both sides will need to accept some hard truths.

Prime Minister Abiy will need to acknowledge that the legitimacy of his government is so eroded by the atrocities committed during this brutal civil war that it cannot continue to rule the country on its own after the end of the conflict. For his part, Tigrayan must acknowledge that deep grievances remain with his longstanding dominance in Ethiopian politics, and that most Ethiopians would not agree for him to lead the federation again. Both sides can aspire to win the war, but alone cannot hope to win the peace.

The civil war in Ethiopia has caused unimaginable suffering and brought the country to the brink of collapse. The time has come for the elites to put aside their selfish interests and start working towards reaching a political solution that will address the growing grievances of the country, and a new social order based on mutual understanding and inclusivity. Build it

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.


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