Ethiopian ruling party holds dialogue with opposition
Comprehensive dialogue hailed as promising long-term solutions to political tensions, but format is criticized
By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s ruling party is meeting Wednesday with the nationally registered main political opposition for a dialogue aimed at long-term stability.
The move came a week after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised to engage with the country’s opposition that “chose the peaceful path”.
Accordingly, about 23 opposition parties sat in discussion with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) at the office of the government whip in a closed session.
The meeting, the first in a series, will first agree on procedural and protocol issues followed by substantive issues.
“The move is excellent for bringing about durable solutions in the country,” Chane Kebede, head of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), a major opposition party, told Anadolu Agency.
But he added, “We did not expect the dialogue to be hosted by the ruling party as it turned out to be. With a ruling party presiding over a political dialogue, the idea of equivalence concerning political parties as practiced in any democratic state would be undermined.
“We will raise our concerns at the meeting because after all it is going to be an event where protocol and procedural issues are going to be discussed first to lay out the foundation for future substantive discussions.”
State of emergency following protests
Election, governance, economic participation, political space, and youth employment are the issues expected to take center stage.
Additionally, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield will arrive on Thursday to encourage the participants, said a government representative who declined to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency after an Oromo thanksgiving festival turned into a protest on Oct. 2. More than 56 were killed in a stampede after security forces fired live bullets in the air and teargas to disperse the crowds.
The ensuing violent protests saw the destruction of greenhouse farms and factories as well as heavy-duty trucks, triggering the government to take action.
Desalegn told a press conference last week that 22,000 people were arrested in connection with violent protests nationwide, most of whom were later released.
In a report last week, Human Rights Watch claimed that the Ethiopian government’s security forces continue to use torture as a means of investigation.
Senior U.S. diplomat travels to Ethiopia and South Sudan
ESAT News (January 18, 2017)
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield will be in Ethiopia on Thursday as part her two nation visit in East Africa.
She will be in South Sudan on January 18 and Ethiopia on January 19, according to a release by the U.S. Department of State.
“The primary purpose of the Assistant Secretary’s visit to Juba, South Sudan is to meet with U.S. Embassy personnel. She will also speak with international partners who deliver humanitarian assistance and local media,” the Department said in a release.
The Department further said the Assistant Secretary also intends to meet senior government officials to discuss issues of mutual concern on bilateral relationship between South Sudan and the United States.
“In Ethiopia, the Assistant Secretary will meet with Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu and officials of the African Union Commission, as well as with Embassy personnel,” the release said.
Last month Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Affairs Tom Malinowski traveled to Ethiopia and met with prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn but left the country dodging the press.