Parliament’s decision met with skepticism from Ethiopians including activists and some opposition political parties
The TPLF is once again dominating news headlines as a series of developments are happening. It is not even a week since the United States Secretary of State returned from a working visit to Ethiopia.
Former TPLF spokesperson, Getachew Reda, had to travel to Addis Ababa to meet with Anthony Binken. In the next few days after the meeting, he emerged as the president-elect of Tigray regional state. The Federal government will have to approve it, based on the Pretoria agreement, and the prediction is that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will approve it.
On March 20, 2023, Mr. Blinken released a statement claiming that war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing were committed in the course of the war in North Ethiopia. The United States absolved TPLF from “crimes against humanity” (much of it had something to do with the weaponization of sexual assault) and “ethnic cleansing” accusations. Mr. Blinken linked those crimes, alleged one, to Amhara forces, the Ethiopian Defense Force and Eritrean Defense Force.
And today, the Ethiopian parliament passed a decision to lift the designation of the TPLF as a terrorist force. The House designated the TPLF as a terrorist force in May 2021 after the group carried out extensive destruction in the Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia apart from the attack on the Northern command of the Ethiopian Defense Force in November 2020 which triggered the war.
Ethiopian government-controlled media said the decision was based on majority votes. Sixty-one members of the parliament voted “No.” and there were five abstain votes.
There are reports that some members of the parliament had a five hours long consultative meeting in the parliament a day before the parliament passed the decision.
The Ethiopian government is manifesting a belief that lifting TPLF’s designation as a terrorist organization is something that fosters the actions that have been taken so far ( after the November 2023 Pretoria Peace agreement) along the path to peace. It hopes to turn its “focus on development.”
However, there are voices who tend to reject the parliament’s decision (without forgetting the sentiment that government executives have developed a strong influence on the parliament) as undesirable given the experience with the unpredictability of TPLF on matters of peace.
EZEMA, an opposition party, has issued a stern statement opposing the parliament’s decision. Mulualem Tegenework, the party’s PR, told EMS service that the decision from the parliament will not bring about lasting peace, relief to Ethiopians or legitimacy – as claimed by government bodies.
Recalling the fact that it is the TPLF that started the war, EZEMA pointed out that TPLF is not fully disarmed. He also talked about other issues including accountability on questions like who ordered the sudden attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Force, which triggered the war, and whether the Ethiopian Defense is currently in full control of the Tigray region or not as lacking transparency.
Enat Party, another opposition party, seems to have a similar stance that the decision from the parliament is undesirable. Getnet Worku, party secretary, raised questions about transparency. He said the Pretoria agreement set preconditions for the TPLF. However, there is no transparency on its implementation. Ethiopians are not informed as to which ones are implemented and which ones are not implemented.
Mr. Getnet speculated, apparently, he is sharing the views of his party, that the TPLF did not disarm between 60 and 70 percent of arms. He said it has already started a military move in the Wolkait area. For him, there is no guarantee that the TPLF will not start a war in the Wolkait and Raya areas.
Activists who have been supporting Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration for nearly five years have recently questioned his unprincipled move along with total rapprochement with the TPLF.
Neamin Zeleke, who was very vocal against the TPLF’s attacks first on the Defense Force and then Afar and Amhara region, called the parliament’s decision “The March of Folly.” He sees lifting TPLF’s terrorist designation before the complete implementation of the peace agreement as something that exposes the people to another danger
He is not alone. Many politicized Ethiopian activists on social media are expressing concern. Some see the development as the work of the United States. The United States is seen as a force that took the lion’s share of the work in terms of rescuing the TPLF as an intact political entity. The TPLF has been a client of the United States, whose hegemonic power if facing a serious resistance the world over, for well over four decades now. Eritrea, in a statement issued this week, said the latest statement from the State Department emboldens the TPLF.
Others see the development as an indication of the emergence of a new alliance between the TPLF and the radical ethnic Oromo nationalist forces who are believed to be dominating power to the extent of running a “deep state.”
A recent revelation from the government of Eritrea indicated that nearly 3000 members of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Force were massacred when the TPLF leaders ordered a sudden attack on November 20,2020 – an incident that triggered the two-year’s bloody war.
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