Oromo Federalist Congress wants an “external body” to be in charge of the national dialogue in Ethiopia. It is a condition for its participation
Oromo Federalist Congress, an ethnic nationalist party whose leader is Merera Gudina, on Monday released a statement outlining four conditions for the national dialogue in response to Abiy Ahmed’s government initiative in that direction.
Before outlining the four conditions, Oromo Federalist congress went on to narrate that it has been calling for it for a long time now. It also made claims that the war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was a result of a “worsening political crisis” and could have been averted.
It also trashed the sixth general election in the country, one that does not have credibility. It brought “neither legitimacy nor stability,” it said.
It then went on to call for the national dialogue to be carried out “honestly and genuinely.”
Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) explicitly expressed that no domestic entity is credible and related the reason to the “current situation” in the country. One of the first conditions that OFC listed as necessary for the proposed national dialogue is that it should be organized by an “external body” with support from the “international community.”
Second, it called for the release of political prisoners. OFC congress tend to see the arrest of Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba (both members of OFC) as politically motivated.
Third, it called for an end to the war with the TPLF. Also, demonstrated sentiment for the TPLF to be part of the process albeit it failed to name names explicitly.
Fourth, it called for the national dialogue to be “all inclusive.” OFC wants inclusion of armed opposition groups in the process. The fifth Ethiopian parliament designated “Oromo Liberation Front – Shane,” and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as terrorist organizations.
The full statement from Oromo Federalist Congress reads as follows :
“Only Honest, Genuine, and All-Inclusive National Dialogue Can Solve the Country’s Political Crisis
A statement from the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) In response to the latest call for national dialogue by Ethiopia’s ruling party
It is to be recalled that in the last three years and beyond, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) has been repeatedly calling for a meaningful national dialogue to help resolve Ethiopia’s deep rooted and ever worsening political crisis. For instance, upon the ascendance of Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed to power, OFC pleaded with him to convene a national dialogue forum where the country’s outstanding political issues to be negotiated and a common road map to be charted so as to ensure a successful democratic transition.
Since then, at every opportunity during the meetings in person or media appearances, OFC’s leadership have been making an impassioned appeal for dialogue and negotiation to save the fragile transition and the country from descending into further chaos. Unfortunately, our pleading fell on deaf ears. When the 2020 election was postponed, OFC called upon the government and other stakeholders to seize the opportunity to build a national consensus towards facilitating environment for a credible election. In connection with this, we prepared and submitted a detailed proposal as part of MEDREK. Sadly, instead of listening to our call, the ruling party responded by cracking down on our party, closing down our offices and imprisoning our leaders.
When the country’s worsening political crises led to the breaking out of war in Tigray, OFC once again called upon the warring parties to end hostilities and sit down for a negotiated settlement of the dispute. However, the ruling party and its supporters responded with adverse media campaign aimed at ostracizing and intimidation of our party.
Furthermore, when the government announced to hold election, OFC warned that the country’s situation is not conducive to conduct a free, fair, and credible election. Strongly advised holding a meaningful national dialogue should come first. Once again, the government ignored our plea and went ahead with its sham election that excluded major political parties including OFC and disenfranchised large portion of the electorate. Consequently, the election brought neither legitimacy nor stability as the ruling party hoped to achieve.
Just recently, at the conclusion of the 2021 election that failed to deliver both durable peace and democratic governance for the country, OFC made its position to the ruling party in a form of a press release titled “An election that is not fair and not inclusive cannot deliver democracy”, and once again called for an all-inclusive national dialogue that can lead to an all-inclusive transitional arrangement that can have a mandate to chart a common roadmap that can in turn lead to a stable an all-inclusive government.
Lately, the ruling party has begun talking about the importance of a national dialogue, which many have dismissed as ‘too little too late’. But we say better late than never and strongly advice that it should be honestly and genuinely conducted. At this stage for national dialogue to bring Ethiopia back from the brinks, it needs to fulfill the following conditions.
1. At this time in point wars commenced to settle law and order in the country came to threaten the overall existence of the country, should be stopped and warring parties sit and convey an all-inclusive national dialogue.
2. The national dialogue needs to be convened by an impartial and credible external body acceptable to all parties, recognized and supported by the international community. Here, it also must be noted that given the present political situation of the country, perceived, it is difficult to find a credible domestic entity that is impartial and acceptable to all parties.
3. The national dialogue should be truly inclusive of all political blocks including the opposition armed groups, if it is meant to meaningfully address the issue of peace – the country’s most urgent need. To enable representation of all groups, legal and security hurdles must be removed.
4. All imprisoned political prisoners must also be released and allowed to take part in the process.
In summary, it is OFC’s assessment that trust deficit among elites is one of the major contributors to the current crisis and a non-inclusive gathering in the name of national dialogue convened by partisan entities could only serve to further erode trust making the ability to solve conflict through dialogue impossible even in the future.
Therefore, although OFC had been at the forefront of calling for a genuine national dialogue, unless the process meets these minimal standards, ones again, we strongly feel this half-hearted process would make our participation meaningless and the whole exercise futile. OFC cordially calls for all Ethiopians and the international communities support our effort.
Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)
Addis Ababa: 25 October 2021”
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