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Ethiopia: Talks for the sake of talks? The quest for inclusivity, equity and justice

Abiy Ahmed (left) and Debretsion Gebremicael (right) are seen together before the TPLF resorted to war about two years ago with the alleged aim to reclaim dominant power in the central government (Photo :file/ENA0

By: Mitiku Derese

The flurry of visits by envoys from the U.S and EU and briefing on 4 August 2022 by the former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo to the AU Peace and Security Council point to progress towards starting of peace talks between the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to end the two years long devastating conflict in the Northern part of Ethiopia. Earlier statements by the GOE confirming readiness for talks without preconditions and allowing unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray also confirm the progress made thus far.

At the same time, there are doubts about TPLF’s sincerity and commitment for talks, and concerns remain that the group is only buying time and preparing for another round of military adventure. Despite considerable improvements in the humanitarian and overall security situation, TPLF continues sending mixed signals and making further preconditions for the talks, including demands for delivery of more fuel, restoration of services, such as telecommunications, banking, and electricity.  The Western envoys who recently visited Mekelle, while confirming availability of sufficient food aid, have issued a press statement echoing TPLF’s demands and urging GOE’s actions. The response of GOE has been one of disappointment about the envoys’ “failure to press TPLF for unequivocal commitment for peace talks”. GOE’s statement also highlighted the actions it took in the delivery of aid and confirmed its willingness to restore services with the creation of “enabling conditions and semblance of peace by beginning the talks”. However, according to recent reports from Mekelle, bank operations have already been restored and there are indications that other services will also resume soon.  

Moreover, TPLF’s objections to the AU’s lead role in facilitating the talks also seem to be addressed with GOE’s agreement to Kenya’s hosting of the talks. In peace talks, agreement on venue often presents a challenge and has its own significance.  However, even after securing GOE concurrence on Kenya’s hosting of the talks, TPLF did not relent in its objections to AU’s lead role and its demand for the involvement of the west, especially the U.S and EU, as well as the UN.

The Government of Ethiopia, which declared the AU’s sole mediation role as one of the three guiding principles for the talks was, once again, put under pressure to make yet another concession. This was apparent in the briefing of former President Obasanjo to the AU Peace and Security Council on 4 August 2022, in which he underscored ‘’the need to upscale cooperation and coordination in support of the AU process”. In plain diplomatic language, this implies an assurance to TPLF that other actors will also have a direct substantive role in the mediation, albeit described as “scaled up cooperation and support”. Such a turn of events is not unusual in “AU-led” diplomatic interventions and mediation efforts in the continent.  However, due to GOE’s repeated and strong pronouncements on AU’s lead role and the public’s resentment towards some western countries and organizations for taking pro-TPLF positions during the conflict, this development has created confusion and uneasiness among Ethiopians. It has also increased doubts about GOE’s ability to resist further TPLF manipulation and external pressure, especially when substantive talks start on more sensitive matters.

The Government of Ethiopia has addressed TPLF’s demands by allowing unhindered humanitarian access and now restoring services, abandoning the minimum required conditions it had set for their resumption. However, even after all its demands having now been fulfilled, there are no clear indications from TPLF that it is ready for talks, or that it will be seriously committed to engage to the end, even if it shows up under pressure for initial talks. 

As indicated above, TPLF has succeeded so far in securing a series of important concessions from the GOE and the international community. The most significant among all the concessions is for it to be able to project itself as the sole negotiating party at talks with the Federal Government of Ethiopia. This notion defies the basic tenets and guiding principles of any peace talks and mediation process: ensuring inclusivity or representation of all affected parties in a conflict. The conflict in North Ethiopia directly involved other two regional states, namely the Afra and Amhara states, which have suffered the same degree, if not greater, loss of lives and destruction. The two regions, especially the Amhara region, is often mentioned as an active party to the conflict and its forces have been accused of alleged human rights violations and occupation of the so-called “Western Tigray ”. Without getting into arguments on the substance of these allegations, one cannot deny the fact that the two regional states are directly affected by the conflict and hence have direct stakes in the talks and their potential outcome. Therefore, the Federal Government by agreeing to negotiate with another regional state -Tigray- represented by TPLF, cannot deny those two regional states their equal political and legal standing by preventing them from participating in the talks. Such action by the GOE will be discriminatory and a selective application of the country’s pollical system of ethnic federalism, stipulated in its current constitution, the respect of which the Government declared as one of the guiding principles for the peace talks. 

Ensuring inclusivity is indispensable for the legitimacy and success of the talks, and ultimately for the acceptance of its potential outcome, especially by those directly affected.  Therefore, it is incumbent on the GOE and the facilitators to seriously consider and resolve this important concern before the beginning of substantive talks.  

In addition to ensuring the representation of the Afar and Amhara regional states, the talks should be designed to ensure transparency, which is also critical for building trust and addressing grievances, particularly the important issue of impunity.  In that regard, early arrangements should be made to solicit inputs from the most affected segments of the population, especially women, internally displaced persons, and others who have suffered the most, so that their views and interests will be reflected in any outcome of the talks.  

Another important consideration and guiding principle for the talks should be recognition of its limited scope of application to the conflict area, and not to delve into other significant national matters. The potential outcome of the talks should not create unreasonable and fundamental obligations and duties for the rest of the country. In other words, the country’s future should not be determined in a process dictated once again by TPLF and at the expense and exclusion of the great majority of the Ethiopian people. The talks should not deal with any constitutional matters that would affect the future of the country and the fundamental interests of the Ethiopian people.   In that regard, GOE’s position on “respect for the constitutional order”, as a guiding principle for the talks, should be clarified and narrowly interpreted to assert its legitimacy, as an elected Government, for the purpose of the talks.  

Mitiku Derese is an international lawyer by training and has extensive experience in international affairs and conflict management.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Subject: ” Ethiopia: Talks for the sake of talks? The quest for inclusivity, equity and justice” By: Mitiku Derese,
    August 8, 2022

    Humble Short Comment
    Look at the above photo. Look at their faces INTENTLY. It will give you an idea — perhaps.
    Those two personalities will NEVER come to the same understanding.
    To ONE the loss of his ambition to be Prime Minister of Ethiopia was eternally DEVASTATING. He will never accept that loss willingly NEVER. It is human nature. We are what we are.

    To the SECOND, it is a challenge to keep his Prime Ministership — elected by the people. He will do everything to retain that honour. EVERYTHING. He has no choice but defend people’s choice.

    What is next? If ETHIOPIANS fall into the pit of provincialism, racism, pettiness …. it will be a glaring testimony of the short-sightedness of Ethiopians, at large, in every profession and way of life. Ethiopians are on the verge of being FAILURES to their own Historically known COUNTRY CALLED ETHIOPIA. What a disgrace that would be to the wonderful ETHIOPIAN HISTORY. WHAT A CLASSICAL TRAGEDY!!!!!! AN ANCIENT COUNTRY, WITH ADMIRABLE RICH HISTORY, IS BEING BURIED bY the wishes of individuals!!!!!!!! As the saying gose, burial places of Ethiopian Heroes and People at large may perhaps be slightly shaking.
    THE END

  2. Two Ruthless Dictators and Terrorists fighting over power and money!! They are together when hiding their past criminal histories and murdering intelligent, educated innocent Ethiopians whom they found threat to their unworthiness to hold power and ignorance.

    Ethiopians do not trust either one because Orommuma Warlord Abiy is the stillbirth of TPLF Terrorists.

    After TPLF and up until Now Ethiopia has lost its peace, stability and harmony. Those thugs are hungry for power by creating hate and chaos.
    Warlord Abiy should stay hiding because no one want to see his cruel SPAY face.

    • Your comments are gibberish, and please try to write something worth writing or don’t write at all. I trust Abiy Ahmed completely, and I’m sure he will pull Ethiopia out of the current quagmire one way or another. He has weathered an indescribably severe storm, and you can see he is a survivor. We all know he doesn’t care for the TPLF one bit, but it’s the relentless international pressure that’s pushing him toward this abhorrent negotiations. But I doubt the TPLF will get much out of the negotiations — at least not much more than bare survival, which is a lot more than they deserve.

      • You must be naïve or a beneficiary from the Orommuma mafia thieves and criminal enterprise that are salivating to murder and steal land and money.

        Warlord Abiy served TPLF as the beloved TPLF spy boy for framing and criminalizing innocent people by coming out with fabricated charges. That is where he gets his confidence to give strait faced lies and uses his ability to easily roll out lies and deceits from his mouth.
        Both are the same rotten criminals who got rich through evil political culture and mass murders with all the despicable gruesome crimes by God know what is left to do and how many people they have suffered and killed by those demons.

        The days of forgiving, waiting for better future to come once TPLF is gone, blaming TPLF for Abiy’s mess and crime and excuses are all gone. The more chance he gets the more he become brutal, arrogant lair and thirsty for blood, and power.

        He has lost all the support and credibility because of his own disciple political agenda, non stop sinister, lies and inability to take the country in a positive, peaceful and productive mode. Day in and day out it is about Human Slaughtering, sufferings, , “government” sponsored theft of land, banks and houses, mass imprisonment without due process, and brining misery in the country that is never been seen in centuries old history.

        • You sound like Tplf agent,Tplf remain the losers so what,there is no truth in your language,all the Tplf leaders deserve an arrest and prosecuted for the attack on northern command.they started and Ethiopian will end it.

  3. Dont”t be fooled? This is the mafioso of TPLF entity and its modus operandi that we all know. Their political culture haven’t changed a bit . Deception, manipulation, blackmailing and violence are their their trademarks. They won’t commit to peace negotiations for the sake of peace.since they believe in or know any peace and its dividend for all sides. Humanitarian and suffering of Tigrain masses are their least concern unless it serves political purpose. Also, one thing of more worrisome is the TPLF’s externalizing this conflict so easily, especially to west , to handicap and outmaneuver of the government policy stance for territorial integrity of the nation and meaningful settlement while disrespecting the AU role . It also worrisome that Kenya of being the venue . Kenya is number one puppeteer for western imperialist corruption and manipulation scams in african. Look no further how many these vultures, lobbyists organization, NGO, etc have been operating from Nairobi and how they have been feasting failed look Somalia?

  4. Dont”t be fooled¡ This is the mafioso of TPLF entity and its modus operandi that we all know. Their political culture haven’t changed a bit . Deception, manipulation, blackmailing and violence are their their trademarks. They won’t commit to any peace negotiations for the sake of peace.since they don’t believe in or know any peace and its dividend for all sides. Humanitarian and suffering of Tigrain masses are least of their concern unless it serves political purpose. Also, one thing of more worrisome is the TPLF’s externalizing this conflict so easily, especially to west , to handicap and outmaneuver of the government’s policy stance for territorial integrity of the nation and meaningful settlement while disrespecting the AU role . It also worrisome that Kenya of being the venue . Kenya is number one puppeteer for western imperialist corruption and manipulation scams in africa. Look no further how many these vultures, lobbyists organization, NGO, etc have been operating from Nairobi and how they have been feasting failed look Somalia?

  5. rezen,
    When most of your comments sound true, the ” Prime Ministership — elected by the people” comment is not true.

    Abiy Ahmed was never elected because he didn’t complete Election Board requirements that was imposed on others to complete. He cut and left out the most important step before coming for election. He used Birtukan Mideksa to do his dirty work and showed up as the winner of the election. So he is not the only election cheater but also Birtukan Mideksa who used her position to cheat and facilitate false election and who failed Ethiopians.

  6. You sound like Tplf agent,Tplf remain the losers so what,there is no truth in your language,all the Tplf leaders deserve an arrest and prosecuted for the attack on northern command.they started and Ethiopian will end it.

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