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Ethiopia’s Abiy Says Will Not ‘Rule Out Possibility’ of Negotiation With TPLF

© AP Photo / Francisco SecoEthiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.02.2022
A key requirement for peace as laid out by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to recognize the legitimacy of his government. So far, the group has postured as an equal state actor to Addis Ababa instead of as a militant group in rebellion, so talks have not begun.
Speaking before the Ethiopian parliament on Tuesday, Abiy said that talks with the TPLF to end the 15-month-long armed conflict were still possible, despite its designation as a terrorist group.
“There has been no negotiation yet. This does not rule out the possibility of discussions. Negotiation is a method of identifying problem-solving options. We have been betrayed while making efforts to rebuild, acknowledging that the region is a part of our country,” Abiy said, according to the Twitter account for his office.
“Negotiation is the upcoming all-inclusive national consultation. The Commissioners of the newly constituted National Dialogue Commission have simply been given the task of coming up with proposals; the Ethiopian people will make the final decisions,” he added.
Abiy also addressed the recent pardoning of several political prisoners, saying they had been released “for three reasons: to bring lasting peace, taking into consideration the overall situation of the prisoners, and to consolidate our victory.”
“In a war, there is no such thing as a total triumph. When one party wins a combat while the other party is momentarily defeated, this is known as temporary victory. In turn, the defeated party would resurrect and assault,” he said. “As a result, true triumph necessitates victory in the realm of peace. This decision has greatly helped Ethiopia. We must not compromise on decisions for the lasting good of the country.”
The TPLF ruled Ethiopia for 27 years before Abiy came to power in 2018 and set about reorganizing Ethiopian politics to reduce the party’s domineering position. In response, the group rebelled, attacking Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) in the northern Tigray state in November 2020. The 15-month-long war has created a massive humanitarian crisis that is parallel to a climate change-driven drought across the Horn of Africa, and large parts of neighboring Amhara and Afar states were destroyed, pillaged, looted, or otherwise brutalized by a TPLF occupation that ended in December.
Most recently, the TPLF launched a new attack into Afar, which locals say is aimed at Eritrean refugees and not an alleged Eritrean-backed militia. A refugee camp came under attack by unknown gunmen in a TPLF-controlled part of Afar earlier this month, according to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees.
Abiy’s office formed the National Dialogue Commission in late December, when the TPLF was forced back into Tigray. However, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti said at the time that it was “a dialogue among the citizens but not a negotiation. TPLF is a designated terrorist organization by the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the Ethiopian government won’t sit for negotiation with this organization.”
The terms for peace laid out by Abiy in November included the TPLF withdrawing from Amhara and Afar, ceasing its attacks on Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, and recognizing Abiy’s government as the legitimate government of all of Ethiopia. However, since its pullback, the TPLF has appealed to the United Nations for help in maintaining a ceasefire and other measures, such as humanitarian aid, but refused any similar appeal to Addis Ababa.
Simon Tesfamariam, executive director of the New Africa Institute, told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary in December that since 1976, the TPLF had conceived of Tigrayans as fundamentally separate from other Ethiopian ethnic groups and sought to create an independent Greater Tigray state “which would expand its territories to the sea, meaning compromising Eritrean sovereignty, and then also into the interior of Ethiopia, taking lands - ancestral lands - of other peoples.”
The Federal Parliamentary Assembly, Ethiopia’s parliament, announced on Monday the appointment of the 11-member commission from more than 600 candidates. It has been tasked with presenting proposals for ending the conflict with the TPLF, as well as simmering tensions with other ethnic groups in the country. The OLF-Shene, a split of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) that refused a 2018 peace deal, supports the TPLF and is accused of carrying out attacks against Amhara civilians and Amhara Special Forces.
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