We have at hand one of the more intractable of the ethnic conflicts. The poles of the problem are between the TPLF, who resent the current Federal Government in Addis Ababa, and the Federal Government who wishes the TPLF and its regional government to die out. Undoubtedly, this situation has left very little room to meet in the middle. And yet, I am certain, both parties understand that compromise is the only way both sides can hope to overcome their differences, and that requires painful sacrifices from both sides.
The story of the current violence is inextricably entwined with the history of Ethiopia and the region as a whole and, as such, can be seen as stemming from the attempt by past rulers to bring the many princes under one political administration. We never know if this is true…. But it has regularly been doom and gloom!
But let me not dwell much on past history and focus on the present: How to bring Abye Ahmed, PM of the Federal Government, and Debretsion Gebre Michael, leader of TPLF, to discuss the future of Ethiopia and Tigray.
This seemingly simple task is rendered more difficult by the dehumanization of the other that we all witness in this crisis. Thus, the simple act of sitting opposite from representatives of the opposing side can easily be viewed as an act of betrayal by one’s own community. Indeed, in the midst of the conflict, the easiest course of actions is unquestionably to maintain the status quo, and yet the defining quality of true leadership is having the courage and prescience to take action in spite of countervailing, short-term political interests in pursuit of a better future.
So here is my humble advice to the key actors in favor of peace:
Civil society – People! Speak up!! Let’s stop this war no matter what; it’s destroying the hopes and possibilities for a decent Ethiopia. Call on our tribe of peacemakers to put out the official call to march for peace.
The Diasporas – Please speak to stop the war and rebuild our own nation now. Political leaders and influential figures within the Diaspora community, please use your leverage to direct the full force of “long-distance nationalists” in defense of peaceful conflict resolution.
The international community – You have the ability to play a role in shaping the dynamic of Ethiopia’s conflict by bringing the actors (i.e. the Federal Government and Tigray Regional State) to the table. You should leverage your unique position because, as witnessed in similar situations, parties to such conflicts are more likely to be willing to make concessions to a third party actor…. Plus you are also capable to help the parties secure an agreement.
Local activists – How would you feel if your wrong campaign might mean the breakup of Ethiopia as a state? So, here is a simple message to you all so called activist who “infantilize” the violence across the social media and You Tube: “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war” as Winston Churchill once said.
Abye Ahmed and Debretsion Gebre Michael – You both know there is still no conclusive evidence that going to war with each other really pays off. You also know well that this is going to be fought by people who never give up… but can’t win either… Why let the conflict drags on for years. You both know, that the critical first step in resolving any conflict is to sit at the negotiating table. Neither one of you should view shared peace as surrender, but should rather put aside your personal enmity in pursuit of the greater goal of peace for the people of Ethiopia.
So gentlemen, don’t wait for Sudan or any stranger to knock at your door. Change tactics…Pick up the phone and talk to each other. Agree to create a structure, say, an inclusive independent international body, to deal with the most urgent and important issue facing our people in Afar, Amhara and Tigray, namely the decommissioning of arms, including observing, monitoring and verifying decommissioning, and the launch of all-party talks.
One last word… We know that there are strongly-held positions on all sides, however, a new beginning in relationship require addressing fundamental issues in a new way… and inevitably require significant movement from all sides.
Get on with it!
Editor’s note : This article was first shared with the public on the Facebook page of Kebour Ghenna
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