An honest opinion for dialogue-
Civil wars subject large numbers of people to physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. The destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure, economic difficulties, public health issues, and long-term societal devastation are immense.
The loss of development aid is unavoidable; the transfer of assets into illegal hands will be rampant. Effects such as inflation, constraints on investments, and increased debt are all inescapable.
Civil war will polarize and build hatred among those who are brothers in peacetime. If the fighting continues, it will be more challenging to reverse the animosity.
The toll on human life during a civil war is enormous. Both sides feel the pain gravely and often regrettably soon after the conflict has ended. Families that have lost loved ones will be devastated, and the magnitude of the loss will affect the entire population. Older people who have no one to assist them will be left helpless. The nation suffers huge losses when productive forces on both sides of the war are killed or disabled.
Economic sabotage and weapons smuggling are much more widespread and visible during civil wars. The other problems in times of civil war, which have a destabilizing effect and are likely more severe, are Assassinations, attacks on public and government buildings, and damage to electrical and telecommunication infrastructure. Even if these have never happened yet, it does not imply we are immune to them. It requires vigilance, tenacity, and intelligence work.
The other front of the civil war is propaganda warfare. It causes psychological, social, and societal harm, corrupts the truth, and steers people’s ideas astray. It is accomplished through the use of deception, fear, diversion, and deflection. Besides the emotional roller coaster we have experienced because of the war, we have seen it all in the last several months: the disinformation, the cultivation of doubts, and the desperation it causes in people’s minds.
Civil war also results in false political expectations and, by a few short-sighted and unstable people, disdain for the people or ethnic group the fighter belongs to. Both are hazardous and absurd by any stretch of the political imagination. It is important to emphasize two critical factors, among others, to which we must pay attention to avoid unnecessary long-term damage and false hope.
1-We must focus and limit our thoughts to the current war’s immediate cause and the perpetrator, the (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) TPLF, and how to end the war, rather than distort our perspectives by straying too far, which is the source of confusion. Some say that the war with the TPLF at the end will pave a way to attain the sort of Federalism they aspire to, and a few see it as a favorable chance for unitary governance; this is just self-deception.
The Federalism system is woven with firmly defined ethnically defined regions and territories, each with its own ethnic name, political power, and language, which has existed for nearly three decades; it is difficult to change due to the war. Our political differences arise from the constitution and actual political issues that must be addressed.
In the framework and reality of Ethiopian politics, no one’s wishes will be granted until all parties reach a national consensus. Even if it is attempted, the absence of peace and security will haunt the nation and people’s lives. We cannot solve our political problems through military fiat. As a result, there is little doubt that this war will not offer us a comprehensive answer to our constitutional and complicated political issues.
2-It is difficult to convey different views to some Tigray people who have been brainwashed by one-sided propaganda for decades and under a closed-door policy for three years. Unfortunately, the TPLF instills suspicion, fear, and a lack of trust in people’s thoughts.
We know the TPLF has committed a crime against the Tigray people. It is a menticide offense. “Menticide is an old crime against the human mind and spirit but systematized anew. It is an organized system of psychological intervention and judicial perversion through which a (ruling class) can imprint (their) own opportunistic thoughts upon the minds of those (they) plan to use and destroy. “Meerlo, Joost-The rape of the mind.
The November event confirmed the TPLF’s completely false, deliberate propaganda and self-fulfilling prophecy that the federal government, the Amhara region, and the Eritrean government were conspiring against the Tigray people. The TPLF’s heinous actions manifested the TPLF’s words, and the people witnessed it firsthand. In the eyes of some, the TPLF is a “prophet.”
Like every conflict and its horrors, the events that transpired throughout the process caused discontent, which is natural.
Even though only a few weak individuals are doing it, it is unjust to sneer at Tigray people, who are victims of TPLF propaganda and ironclad rule. Rather than demonstrating empathy for people, disparaging them is vile.
Hence, we must concentrate on liberating the Tigray people from the TPLF to live in peace and security alongside the rest of the population.
“The foundation of most good relationships is mutual trust and respect.”
We are currently experiencing all the aforementioned negative aspects and ramifications of war, and we will continue to do so as long as the conflict continues. Every battle is simple to start but difficult to end.
The two commonly accepted solutions for overcoming these unfavorable circumstances are mediation or a decisive military victory.
THE PATH OF MEDIATION
What is mediation? Mediation, defined by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), is “a mode of negotiation in which a mutually acceptable third party helps the parties to a conflict find a solution that they cannot find themselves.”
Mediation is a voluntary act that all parties must accept; it is a procedure for resolving a disagreement without a legally binding settlement process and solution. Mediation is a demanding technique that starts with building trust in the mediation process itself. Accommodating and amusing all sides’ ideas, opinions, conditions, and threats to withdraw from the mediation table is like herding cats.
Individuals such as former heads of state and diplomats, regional organizations such as the African Union, international organizations such as the United Nations, individual countries such as the United States, Norway, and South Africa, and non-governmental organizations such as the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Conflict Management Initiative are all examples of mediators.
It is a well-established truth that in these types of negotiations, the disputants have an incentive to make demands higher than what they receive, boast about their military might, misrepresent the situation, threaten to boycott the mediation and planning, and organize another big attack while in mediation.
One of the mediation challenges is the information problem that each disputant has about the other and the distorted and exaggerated military power talk on all sides. Here is where mediators come in handy. Countries with competent intelligence services, such as the United States and other superpowers, are well aware of the forces’ mobility, weaponry, and cache power of both sides. As a result, the disputants will not mislead the mediators and will steer the conversation on the right path.
The other crucial issue is the political cover or recognition given by regional and international organizations and the United Nations to a group considered a rebel or terrorist group to bring peace. This situation will strain the mediation approach and put the government in a dire situation since acknowledgment will inspire other rebels or armed organizations to use the same strategy to achieve their goals, setting a terrible precedent.
This political cover approach affects mediation because of the double standard and hypocritical advice from the superpowers forcing the government to mediate with terrorist organizations, which they do not do themselves. As a result, the government will be hesitant to acknowledge the other group, and the mediation may not occur as soon as expected or never happen.
The other serious issue is commitment. Even after agreeing on a solution, it may suffer from a commitment problem, and war may erupt again because mediation is not legally binding. Countries like the United States usually use gentle pressure to compel the settlement to take effect. Mostly, the pressure is ineffective, and it is difficult to envision the agreement taking effect unless it is verified in practice and held for an extended period. The process is generally discouraging for the mediators.
The unfortunate reality of a civil war is that negotiated settlements are always fragile; a ceasefire will not last a few months, and peace agreements will not survive for years.
Is meditation a viable option in Ethiopia’s present politics?
Minority ethnic groups will find mediation an effective means of sharing power and securing key cabinet positions. Though the TPLF claims to be the so-called leading party of a minority ethnic group, regrettably, for twenty-seven years, the TPLF had a mix of power-with and power-over others, and it is now aiming for total power over others.
Power-sharing does not appear to be an incentive for the TPLF; this will make the TPLF unyielding to mediation. Even if it expresses an interest, it is only for political reasons to appease and strengthen its support from the major powers.
We realize from past practice that seeking to settle issues in one’s effort is futile. Although most Ethiopians have banded together in their opposition to the TPLF throughout the conflict, it will be primarily a three-party affair when the mediation takes place. The parties in mediation would be the federal government, as well as the Amhara and Tigray regions. When multiple parties are involved, mediation becomes complicated and challenging.
Indeed, mediation is not a silver bullet for the problem. It would be difficult in our context, where a competitive political climate and a territorial issue combine. Mediation is the process of resolving an issue through compromise. On what and how can these parties compromise? Do they have a demand that can be reneged on?
Can the Amhara and Tigray regions agree on Wolqayet Tsegede and Ray, the war’s focal points, while maintaining their respective positions?
The Amhara Region-Will the Amhara Region compromise with the TPLF after TPLF forces massacred and slaughtered 1,600 individuals? Can the Amhara region make a compromise with an organization that purposefully stalls its legal challenge to Wolqayet Tsegede and Raya when it was in power? Is it conceivable for the Amhara Region to reject Amhara’s historical and geographically supported rightful possession of these areas and compromise with TPLF?
TPLF-Will the TPLF make concessions in these areas, which are vital to its economic survival? Is it possible to compromise these locations, which serve as the gateway and path designed for its long-awaited session goal? Will the TPLF be amenable to compromise on these areas that it founded and legitimized in the constitution for the Tigray region?
The Federal Government-The TPLF refuses to recognize the incumbent federal government and accept the results of this year’s election, which it considers illegitimate. Can a legitimately elected government by legitimate rules and regulations backed by the constitution put its power to compromise? Will the Federal government accept if the Amhara Region compromises on Wolqayet Tsegede and Humara, knowing that this will pose major national security concerns for the nation?
If Wolqayet Tsegede and Humara compromised, what might the regional ramifications be? What would the area’s and the region’s peace and security look like? What is Eritrea’s reaction likely to be?
Sure, there are many questions. Some proposed questions are about justice and can be viewed through the perspective of the law, but the majority are about survival and national security. However, the goal is to find a solution to the issue; finding a long-term solution to a civil war is elusive.
Mediation fails when civil war opponents are asked to undertake what they deem inconceivable. In our situation, resolving the conflict through mediation seems improbable because of each party’s vested interests.
The three main reasons mediation cannot bring about a settlement In the Ethiopian context:
1-The underlying real motivation factor is crucial in mediation. Mediation is a negotiation, so some give and take is to be expected. The underlying motivation influences whether mediation is successful. The Amhara region will not compromise and agree because the overarching goal of the TPLF bargain is not only to land but to annihilate, rob natural resources, and dismantle the country’s one treasure. As previously mentioned, the TPLF will not compromise until it gets the contested areas because they are its political and economic guarantors.
2-The Assertiveness of core values is the second factor to consider. Undoubtedly, the Amhara people empathize with the condition and suffering of the Tigray people. Nevertheless, the mediation with the TPLF will be complex due to the Amhara people’s assertiveness and zealous advocacy on their behalf. History, geography, and ancestral roots of the land support the people in their advocacy and make it hard to compromise. The TPLF is also sticking to its position and has legal backing from the constitution; as a result, it will not budge from its conviction and will not compromise.
3-The agent and the principal interest factor are the third and most important factors. An agent is an advocate on behalf of others—diplomat for his country, association leader on behalf of the association, etc. The TPLF claims it is advocating on behalf of the people of Tigray. Taking land from the Amhara people is not in the Tigray people’s best interest. Years back, the elders of both regions said, “Please leave us alone; we know how to live together,” at a joint public meeting of both regions’ elders in the presence of the TPLF and the Amhara Democratic Party (ADP).
Each agent’s self-interest sometimes differs from the principal’s; here, the TPLF’s interest is to use these areas as a session victory flag, contrary to the Tigray people’s interest, making it hard to settle with the TPLF.
The complexity and the possible episodes:
Indeed, mediation may be the choice for settling issues through the cessation of hostility and ceasefire. However, it has a considerable challenge in determining what to concede to both parties to resolve the issue, as we tried to see earlier.
Is it then preferable to let the war determine the solution, as some have suggested? Will the exhaustion of war bring one or both of them to the negotiating table and give up their demands? Is a strategic victory possible in our situation? Is it a tactical and operational win that makes the difference at this moment?
A Civil war involving territorial conflicts is both technically and politically challenging. Finding a solution that is based on collaboration and trust is nerve-wracking. Even if a consensus is reached, putting the agreed-upon solution into action on its own can be highly challenging. As in many other places, the rise of another conflict is a source of concern.
Is there anything the parties may trade for peace that we are not cognizant of? Hypothetically, one or more of the following partial agreements may occur because of the cajoling and pressure from superpowers: an unconditional ceasefire on both sides, the declassification of the TPLF from the terrorist list, acknowledgment, and mediation with the TPLF, exchange of prisoners of war, and the release of power and telecommunication services. Things of this type, even though they seem implausible, may have a remote possibility.
Will they agree to form an unbiased committee made up of diverse nations trusted by all parties to investigate and determine where Wolqayet Tsegede and Ray should be allocated if external pressures compel them to do so? Is the African Union no longer a viable option? These are hypothetical thoughts and queries. The United States, the European Union, and the United Nations exert pressure, but there is no feasible (steaming valve) alternative for these superpowers.
In Ethiopia’s current political reality, any mediation will undoubtedly result in a stalemate, not avert the crisis. Are there any unforeseen circumstances that lead to a successful outcome? It has become challenging for the writer to identify what those criteria are.
A brief remark on U.S. policy and the TPLF’s interest in mediation:
The United States is the leading superpower taking part in the Ethiopian crisis as a peace advocate and humanitarian aid provider. On August 26, 2021, the United States Embassy in Eritrea released a policy document on Facebook.
The policy declaration issued by the United States is to avert humanitarian disasters and restore peace. There is no dispute about the overarching aim. The problem occurs when a policy digs deeply into an internal subject of the country, proposes an approach with no historical or contextual framework, and deals with the core of the crisis by taking a position slanted to one side.
In the document, one of the apparent intentions is: “An effort to change Ethiopia’s internal boundaries is unacceptable. Any issue of national importance is an issue for the Ethiopian people to decide through consensual dialogue and democratic process, not violence.” (Source: U.S. policy on the Conflict in Tigray. American Embassy in Eritrea Facebook page, August 26, 2021) (https://www.facebook.com/usembassyasmara/photos/a.214721245119/10159569944710120/)
As previously stated in this article, the immediate focus areas of Ethiopia’s current war are Wolqayet Tsegede and Raya. The document discloses the United States’ stance toward these places. Indeed, while the United States emphasizes that the issue should be resolved via debate and dialogue, as in any other instance, it has not considered the historical context and complexity of the matter. Instead, it indirectly echoes the TPLF’s explicit goal of reclaiming the disputed regions, even though this may not be the intention.
The problem is not as the policy depicts it; it has a long history, truth, and a political past to justify the current situation. What else can one say? “Closing the barn door after the cow has bolted.”
It is unsurprising to hear of the TPLF’s willingness to mediate only one day after the American Embassy in Eritrea posted on Facebook the US policy on the conflict in Tigray. The TPLF’s core interests and the intentions of the USA related to the contested areas are perfectly aligned. It implies that the USA’s intent might have motivated the TPLF to pursue mediation. Other causes are not immediately revealed to the writer.
During a negotiation, it is also reasonably common to look for mediators. All parties shop for a mediator whom they believe or know will assist them in furthering their interests. The TPLF’s refusal to accept an African Union or East African peace mission is understandable. It is a preemptive political measure.
The intent of the article on mediation:
It is crucial to note that this portion of the article’s central thesis is not that mediation cannot solve a problem. The argument is with Ethiopia’s current reality and publicly available information, and even if mediation is implemented, resolving the issue would be challenging.
Mediation is a practical approach to avoiding crises before they occur, and sometimes it has been a successful tool after a crisis erupts. It is not science, though, and there is no such thing as a universal formula. In certain situations, it might work, but not in others. Most crisis combatants and disputed parties try mediation during the crisis.
In our situation, as it happened in other crises, without a doubt, because of various causes, like 1- Inability to achieve what they wish. 2-War fatigue.3- Economic catastrophe owing to austerity and sanction measures. 4-Ammunition supply shortages on both sides or one side 5- If one wins battles, and the opponent realizes that fighting is not the key to attaining one’s objectives, and so on, mediation can happen.
Unresolved grievances and wartime enmity always breed a desire for vengeance, and there will be no peace. Therefore, because of this and the compelling scenarios described, all conflicting parties in Ethiopia may attempt to settle their differences through mediation.
It would have been preferable to cease the violence and address it via mediation among brothers and sisters related to the same culture, language, marriage, and other factors. Unfortunately, it is exceptionally challenging because of the competing political issues and cases rooted in the territory.
THE PATH OF WAR:
Goals of the war:
It is necessary to set a strategic aim before the start of the war. Civil war is a large-scale, long-term, physically violent conflict. Our country is amid a civil war involving people on both sides, and each warring party has its own goal.
TPLF’s Goal-The TPLF’s immediate and unwavering objective is to retake control of Wolqayet Tsegede and Ray and reintegrate them into the Tigray region. It is about economic and strategic survival and regaining the areas to achieve its long-held aspiration to secede. If the situation permits, they will prefer to widen the conflict and usurp power from the federal government.
The Amhara Region’s Goal-The Amhara region’s goal is never to surrender ground that has been won and reclaimed by blood and tears; secure the areas that historically and geographically belong to the Amhara for a long time. It is again an unwavering determination to ensure the survival of the Amhara people in the region in the wake of TPLF aggression and terrorist acts.
The Federal Government’s Goal-According to the parliament’s classification of the TPLF as a terrorist group, the federal government’s goal is to fight the terrorist organization (TPLF) and liberate the Tigray people from the oppressive regional administration of the TPLF. It is also to protect the people of Ethiopia from TPLF terrorist attacks, maintain law, order, and peace, and ultimately obliterate the TPLF as an organization.
The fighting entities have a definite and irreversible, obvious goal entwined with survival. It is logical that in a people’s war associated with survival, the conflict will last for a long time until one emerges decisively victorious.
WHEN IS VICTORY?
Sun Tzu said, “The main aim of battle is victory.” Winning a war, rather than a battle or a campaign, is a political goal. If war is a political act, then victory must be understood in political terms. The inference is that tactical or operational success is not a complete win without a clear strategic goal or political outcome. For victory in a war to be accomplished, the enemy’s will must be broken, and the means of resistance must be removed.
“… the total concept of a victory, we find it consists of three elements: the enemy’s greater loss of material strength, his loss of morale, and his open admission of the above by giving up his intentions.” Whoever succeeds in achieving the war’s aims and objectives is the true winner.
Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret, eds. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univ.Press, 1989)
Unfortunately, war is a dynamic and fluid process. As a result, victory is determined by the objective circumstances on the ground, the opponent’s will, and the gravity of each warring force’s ultimate objectives. Most civil wars end with one side’s military victory. However, as observed in many civil wars that have ended with a military victory, it will recur within a few months, and the fight will resume.
Is the TPLF capable of winning this war? The TPLF is without a sanctuary and under restricted supply flow; as a result, it has a significant disadvantage. Tigray has a war-weary people, and a forcibly conscripted army is a source of concern in the long run. As a result, the TPLF cannot overcome the Federal Government troops, with auxiliary multi-regional special forces and militias, airpower, and technological capabilities.
Even if the TPLF loses material and territorial control because it was formed, lived, and rose to power through guerrilla warfare, it would be the TPLF’s first choice to prolong the war through protracted warfare. To survive, it will also rely on the intangible power of will and firm intention, as well as the energy of hatred. As a result, the TPLF will wage a long-term guerrilla war using its dugouts and tunnels, as well as the topography of Tigray.
Even if it becomes a hostile and weak force, the region and country will remain in conflict for a long time. When it loses power, the question of trying to survive by remaining resolute remains to be seen.
Another unlikely scenario is that if the TPLF wins the war, it will not be able to rule, the country will encounter long-lasting civil strife and possibly disintegrate. In all scenarios, hardship, a lack of peace and security, and an impending economic calamity will torment the region and the nation. This is the abyss, and no Ethiopian wants to see it. Though it’s an unlikely situation, it’s the TPLF’s goal, therefore we should treat it as a duty to save the country, rather than a good will to solve our political problems.
Is Ethiopia’s federal government capable of winning this war? With all the available supplies, troops, allied special forces, and militias from other regions, airpower, and technology, the federal government has a significant chance of defeating the TPLF tactically and operationally.
If the TPLF suffers defeat in conventional combat, it will benefit from switching to guerrilla warfare, which will present a challenge to the government. The TPLF will undoubtedly retire to its fortress and caverns for the duration of the conflict, making it difficult for the government to achieve a strategic triumph against the TPLF.
The idea of victory may thus be determined by the degree of violence and stability in a country at a given time, with no one strategically prevailing in war or politically.
Is Ethiopia ready for a long-term conflict? The cost of living in Ethiopia is rising, and unemployment is becoming a ticking time bomb buried beneath the nation’s belly. The local currency is in a state of disarray, and foreign currency is in short supply.
Armed groups are operating in various regions of the country, causing unrest and the deaths of many civilians. They might instigate an escalated parallel crisis with the TPLF, which would be a huge military, economic, and a matter of national security.
It is a conundrum to become involved in an unavoidable, long-running battle with a clear understanding of how it harms people and the country and puts us in unstable environments. Unfortunately, the alternative is much more catastrophic.
Scrutinizing and adopting the option:
The writer is ambivalent about both war and mediation as long-term solutions. He does not want to be like Buridan’s ass; it dies because of its inability to choose between the two options available to it. It is also the feeling of being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Like the Cornelian dilemma, the predicament shifts people’s feelings from seeking peace and losing territory to sacrificing short-term peace while keeping territory and honor. For the time being and in the long term, the latter is the right approach.
Prescribing a solution to long-term peace is not an easy undertaking, given the uncertainties and the benefits and drawbacks of the possibilities. However, there is no third choice that can save us from this dilemma. Trapped between these two options, we must choose one.
That war is a last resort and that the ultimate goal of war is always peace. Therefore, if peace comes in any form, it is morally imperative for all parties to achieve permanent peace. However, it is not always possible.
The Ethiopian government and people entered into this war because of circumstances beyond their control. Most notably, the TPLF’s brutal attack on the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) tinder the whole situation, followed by a declared war against Amhara and the Afar regions with the stated goal of dismantling the nation and, if possible, take-over power.
According to all available information, the TPLF’s immediate and long-term goals and intentions directly come from their leaders, detainees, and actions show that the country faces an ominous enemy, which is a significant concern.
The danger is not so much regime change as the possibility of the country collapsing and ushering in unprecedented civil wars within a single country. We appear to be in a situation when we do not have open sesame for peace and calm.
Mediation is not an option among the choices available at this time; the only option, albeit costly and fatal, is to pursue the war to preserve the nation and free the Tigray people from the TPLF.
The predilection is for the Ethiopian government defense force and its allied forces to be steadfast and determined in their fight and have the tactical and operational upper hand in driving the TPLF back into its cave as soon as possible. It is better if they remove the TPLF leadership and come close to strategic victory.
The writer is not questioning the government’s determination to lead the defense and auxiliary forces to victory. In the Amhara and Afar regions, the battle is still raging and swinging back and forth in the same areas. When the unilateral ceasefire was declared, this was not the scenario expected. Many people accept and cope with things as they happen.
It is evident that if a major war lasts for an extended period, popular support for civil conflicts will dwindle with time, and the cost of war and the burden on society will become unbearable. This shows the importance of time in the war.
As a result, quick, strong, and decisive action is required. The federal government’s defense force is widely expected to expel TPLF forces from the Amhara and Afar regions, restoring the federal government’s tactical and operational victory position, which the unilateral ceasefire neutralized in June.
Is this going to bring us peace and put an end to the war? It will not bring us permanent peace, and the fighting may continue. “The war will never be over, never,” as German Nobel Laureate Heinrich Böll put it, “as long as a wound it has inflicted is still bleeding somewhere.” However, it will save the country from crumbling, give us relative security, and prevent the Ethiopian people from experiencing horrendous civil wars.
After achieving tactical and operational success, it would be necessary to assess the situation and determine what measures should be taken next. There may be an opportunity to reconsider mediation if it is beneficial to the country’s security, unity, and peace and if the objective situation on the ground necessitates it.
The diplomatic and propaganda campaign has not adequately supported the promotion of our truth, which helps the country and the region of East Africa. The government is abandoning the most successful and effective means of using lobbyists.
Unless we are strong in diplomacy, coordinated propaganda work, and employ lobbyists to push our objectives, the entire war process will not be free of foreign pressure and will lead us to diplomatic and economic problems.
Suppose these political tools are not given high priority and implemented. In that case, the government should be aware of the short and long-term adverse effects on the nation’s politics, economy, and potential development.
It is imperative to show gratitude and respect to the Ethiopian defense forces, auxiliary forces, and the Ethiopian people for their unwavering commitment to fighting and supporting the war against the TPLF terrorist attack on the nation.
Megalomania, narrowness, hubris, aggression, and terrorism are all traits associated with the TPLF. The only way to cope with such a horrible incarnation is to take decisive and courageous action and shatter him to its core.
We must maintain vigilance, courage, and tremendous hope since the problem will be with us for an extended period.
“Hope is the mother of two lovely children, Anger, and Courage. Anger at how things are, and the courage to ensure that they do not stay that way.” -Augustine of Hippo
Let us strive for peace and unity. Fight for things not to stay as they are and courageously transfer our situation from the edge of the abyss to a more secure position.
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