U.S. envoy to visit Ethiopia to try to halt fighting

U.S. envoy to visit Ethiopia to try to halt fighting

U.N. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman speaks during a news conference in Colombo March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte (SRI LANKA – Tags: POLITICS)

NAIROBI, Aug 13 (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden is sending his special envoy for the Horn of Africa to Ethiopia amid international alarm at the escalation of a war that has killed thousands and created a humanitarian crisis in one of the world’s poorest regions.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, announcing the trip by envoy Jeffrey Feltman, urged Ethiopia’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to come to the negotiating table after nine months of conflict.

“Months of war have brought immense suffering and division to a great nation that won’t be healed through more fighting,” he tweeted late on Thursday.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Feltman’s travel.

Abiy’s federal troops and forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which control Tigray, have been battling since November in a war that has killed thousands of people, sparked a major refugee crisis and been marked by ethnic killings, rape as a weapon of war and a humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations warned in July that more than 100,000 children in Tigray could suffer life-threatening malnutrition in the next 12 months.

This week, the rebellious Tigrayan forces said they were in talks to forge a military alliance with insurgents from Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromiya, heaping pressure on the government in Addis Ababa. read more

The leader of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), told Reuters by phone on Thursday that the group had opted to join forces with the TPLF, whom they had bitterly opposed during their three decades in power in Ethiopia, because they now have now have a common cause.

“I hope we are going to squeeze this government, and if possible – and I know it’s possible – we are going to overthrow this regime and stop this crisis,” said OLA leader Kumsa Diriba, who goes by the nom de guerre Jaal Marroo.

The government has designated both the TPLF and the OLA as terrorist organisations.

Also this week, the government urged citizens to join the fight against the resurgent Tigrayan forces. It said all capable Ethiopians should join the army, special forces and militias to show their patriotism. read more

After retaking control of most of Tigray in late June and early July, Tigrayan forces have pushed into the adjoining Afar and Amhara regions, capturing the United Nations World Heritage site of Lalibela last week. read more

1 Comment

  1. To all who want to end the misery of the people in the Ethiopian Empire,

    The Oromo should NEVER negotiate away their birthright to form their own independent & sovereign republic in the first place, and any “solution” ANYONE can formulate that is not going to provide adequate answer to the Oromo question is simply not going to work in the end, in solving the Empire’s dilemma,

    That, a CREDIBLE referendum conducted and administered by a NEUTRAL international body is, perhaps, the ONLY SANE path left to allow the people in the Ethiopian Empire to PEACEFULLY decide on the issue of whether or not they want to go their own way or remain as part of Ethiopia,

    That, towards this goal, ALL liberation movements in the Empire can work in conjunction with one another, whether they ‘like’ each other or not,

    That, the Amhara elite may “kick and scream” all they want, but it will be to the benefit of the poor Amhara people to join this peaceful effort, so they can live in peace with their neighbors in the future regardless of the color and design of the flag their neighbors may choose,

    That, the Oromo will, in the end, choose their own flag, with or without the consent of the Habesha elite and the Western Centers of Power, AND the TPLF/TDF WILL NOT TRY TO CONQUER Oromia AS IT DID IN 1991, THAT THE OLA LEADERSHIP IS NOT BEING BLINDSIDED BY SOME DISCERNIBLE INTRIGUE, gives me reason to be cautiously optimistic about the “alliance” formed between the TPLF & the OLA to get rid of the murderous regime of Abiyot aka Abiy Ahmed…. After the removal of Abiy’s government from power, the “Tactical Alliance” (Remember, 1991?)SHOULD END, to be followed by an agreed upon process for a referendum.



    To understand the reasoning behind the points made above, please take a look at this article which I have taken the liberty to re-post here on Kichuu. The article originally was published on Ayyaantuu News and was written by Ms. Soretti Kadir. This article, in my opinion, is one of the BEST papers I have read so far, written in support of a “referendum” as a lasting solution for the misery of millions of people trapped in that miserable entity known as Ethiopia…

    Ethiopia: Referendum as a lasting political solution in Oromia and beyond

    What will it take to address the mounting political, social, and economic questions that continue to hamper Ethiopia’s transition to democracy?

    By Soretti Kadir

    Referendum Oromia

    (Awash Post) — In a 24 March speech in parliament, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed acknowledged that his security forces have been fighting rebels in parts of the Oromia state. He also noted that internet and telephone communications had been cut in the restive areas—for months at a time—and many people have died in the fighting. It was a rare acknowledgment of a conflict that has festered in total darkness since 2018 in Wallaga, Guji, and Borana zones.

    The civil war in Oromia continues to grind on in the shadow of the Tigray war. Yet, these are not the only challenges Ethiopia faces currently. Statehood demands have mushroomed across the South, sometimes accompanied by communal conflict and political tensions. Afar and Somali states are engaged in a stormy border dispute. The Amhara militia and special forces are on ethnic cleansing expeditions in Tigray, Wollo, and the Benishangul Gumuz region. At the root of these conflicts are unsettled historical debates, contested territories, and divergent aspirations about Ethiopia’s future.

    To understand the multi-pronged challenges in Ethiopia, we must look to the country’s history and repeated failures to reckon with its complex past because these dynamics keep showing up in the present moment. Turning a blind eye to this historical trauma is preventing Ethiopia from moving forward. The multinational federal system enshrined in the current constitution has attempted to transition the country from empire and dictatorship to democracy.

    Still, the desires for pluralism, regional self-rule, competitive politics, human rights, and self-determination keep colliding with the intentions upon which the country was initially built: to control and exploit resources, dominate people and create a single nation-state characterized by one language, one religion, and one cultural makeup (i.e., an Amharhanized state). Unlike the rest of the African continent, there was no decolonization process in Ethiopia. No real effort was ever made to remedy the wounds that were cut into the country and its people from the early days of its creation.

    Ethiopia enjoys a reputation as the only African country that was never colonized, but the modern Ethiopian empire was created via colonial and military means carried out in collaboration with European forces from the early-mid 1800s onward. This process culminated in the reign of Menelik II, who consolidated the Ethiopian state via mass genocide, cultural, linguistic, spiritual, economic, and political decimation and assimilation. Vast regions were subjected to colonial control. They have always resisted.

    Many believe that dwelling on past historical injustices is counterproductive when imagining political solutions for the present. I argue the opposite, i.e., the past, when it is clouded with trauma and left unaddressed, will continue to, directly and indirectly, control the future we attempt to create. It must be addressed. The question, then, becomes, how? What will it take to adequately address the political questions, social and economic conditions that are interlinked with Ethiopia’s colonialist past and present? It will take political courage and political will that untethers itself from patterns of control and abuse and strives to uplift the genuine desires of the people.

    One way to know those desires and acknowledge the truth is for the people to decide what Ethiopia is or is not by holding a referendum. Ethiopia has not yet engaged in any decolonization practice. It is past time to consider it seriously. Many Ethiopians and Ethiopia’s western allies are now calling on the ruling Prosperity Party to initiate a National Dialogue process. I argue that referendum should be a central part of that dialogue and not be left to be decided by whatever ruling arrangement emerges from this event.

    Ethiopia is a nation of nations with more than 80 ethnic groups; ten of those nations are formally recognized as “regional states.” The past impacts each people group in unique ways. Although my concern is not exclusive, my knowledge and experience put me in a position to speak to the Oromo experience. I believe that the solution of a referendum applies to all of Ethiopia’s peoples. It is the right of those people to discern the political solution most appropriate for their past, present, and future.

    Two crucial truths help us understand the position of a referendum as a political solution for the Oromo nation. The first is that when Oromia was colonized, a functioning, diverse, culturally and linguistically unique, politically, economically, and socially organized nation with a respective history and an indigenous, ancestral custodianship to land was dismantled and replaced with a highly centralized Ethiopian state.

    The second truth is that every ruler and conqueror of Ethiopia, from Menelik II to the current regime, had Oromo individuals serving at high-level public and grassroots positions. But there has never been a moment or an arena in which the Oromo people, en masse, have decided upon their political fate and whether they see themselves as part of Ethiopia. The combination of these two realities has seen each Oromo generation engage in various forms of resistance against the Ethiopian state. Ethiopia has always responded violently, without fail.

    A genuine referendum will give all the people living within the boundaries of Ethiopia the opportunity to decide whether they: a) remain a federation, b) rearrange the union into a confederacy, or c) become entirely independent and stand-alone or d) form new voluntary unions from the position of independence. These options intentionally and contextually address and provide a remedy for the condition that resulted in the organization of the Ethiopian state as a project of force. It acknowledges that ordinary people have not been afforded a say as many iterations of Ethiopia have come and gone. It attends to the immense suffering of subjugated peoples throughout each chapter. Please note that these four options are articulated only for the purpose of this piece. The number of options and their articulations must be decided via a deliberative process undertaken by, for example, a selected committee or counsel entrusted by the people to shape the referendum process.

    On the surface, a referendum may seem to favor those with secessionist ambitions. However, if conducted in the spirit of trust in the public and their capacity to decide their fate, no political ideology can manipulate the process than engage in awareness raising-campaigns in the lead-up to the vote.

    Moreover, suppose we believe that the character of politics, when in actual service of people, listens to and responds to the interest of the collective. In that case, all political camps are obliged to accept and abide by the final decision that the people make. That includes me, as an advocate for Oromia’s independent statehood; it also includes proponents of multinational federalism and those that advance unitary state politics.

    The benefits of a referendum within the process of national dialogue are many. First, whatever the next chapter is for Ethiopia, we enter it knowing that the people decided it, and thus the people and any elected leaders are accountable for that decision. The moment of the people’s decision is what matters most, though it may not appear to be the least challenging path. The second benefit, and one that cannot be understated, is that a referendum is the most likely political solution to bring all armed parties to the table.

    The Oromo Liberation Army, a force that is exponentially growing and supported across Oromia, says it is struggling to enable the Oromo people to determine their future. It is common rhetoric amongst the army that they cannot decide independence for the people, even if that’s what the group advocates. They are fighting for the opportunity to enable the Oromo people to decide and then serve the people’s decision.

    We can draw another example of this point from the protracted civil war in Tigray. After the waves of horror unleashed against the Tegaru people by ENDF, Eritrean soldiers, and Amhara militias, the TPLF says independence is “probably the most viable option” for the Tigray nation. Other organized groups, for example, in the Somali and Benishangul states, are likely to turn to armed resistance as all avenues for peaceful struggle dwindle and as PP works to erode the foundations of the multinational federal arrangement. A decisive public decision-making instrument like a referendum could see all of these parties come to the table.

    At a foundational level, convening a referendum would need to be protected from government interference, including the military and security extensions of the incumbent government. All stakeholders should have the opportunity to campaign for and raise awareness about their position of interest. In the case of Oromia, the convening of a referendum should be conducted in collaboration with groups and institutions, local or otherwise, identified and trusted by the local population in Oromia.

    The prospect of Ethiopia changing dramatically and the formation of new states are often seen as risky and disruptive. Ethiopian leaders often deploy this tactic—warning about risks of balkanization—to evade accountability and cling to power, even at the cost of protracted oppression and conflict. But time and again, the top-down state-building approach has brought neither lasting stability nor democracy to Ethiopia. The nation-state is an idea that is made appealing to groups of people by providing opportunities for growth, a fulfilling sense of identity and community, protection against harm, and more.

    In many cases, and Ethiopia is one of those cases, the nation-state embodying an empire of indigenous nations is an idea that was created via violence and served only an elite few, refusing to evolve beyond that point. If the concept in practice is not productive and instead causes suffering, new ideas should be explored and embraced. After many aborted attempts at the transition to a democratic order, Ethiopia needs this more than ever.

    In the case of the vote resulting in the country’s fragmentation, robust preparation for this transition at a local and collective level by those advocating for new statehood can protect against the political, economic, and social failure of these new nations.

    A referendum as a political solution in Ethiopia might feel like a daunting consideration and terrifying as a practical undertaking. There are reasons for this. For one, if a referendum vote reveals that the people want freedom from the construct of Ethiopia, economic relationships will need to change, geopolitics will need to shift, and diplomacy will have to be rethought. Be that as it may, I insist that keeping over 80 million people (the Oromo and other southern and marginalized peoples) in an arrangement that produces trauma, generation after generation, is far more terrifying. The act of choosing can break this cycle of trauma for the Oromo and many others who form the vast majority of Ethiopia’s 110 million population.

    Ethiopia urgently needs an all-inclusive national dialogue to avert an inevitable fragmentation. To succeed, the dialogue should be convened by a neutral body, and all parties must seriously consider a referendum as a legitimate political tool to settle historical and contemporary grievances. Ultimately, it is the people who must decide their political fate.

Comments are closed.