Hopes that the peace deal struck in November 2022 between the federal government of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in which they agreed to permanently stop the war that for two years ravaged northern Ethiopia has proven to be short-lived. No sooner had the warring sides signed the ceasefire deal than a series of violent attacks took place in the restive Oromia region at the of the self-described Oromo Liberation Front-Oromo Liberation Army (OLF-OLA) or what the government calls OLF-Shene. Deadly clashes have also flared in the region as well as neighboring Amhara between the terrorist designated group government security forces. Both sides have traded accusations of perpetrating atrocities, accusations they deny. The latest bout of violence is the part of similar incidents that have rocked Ethiopia for close to five years now. Other episodes of violence and politically charged controversies that have arisen after the November truce have also given rise to an increased sense of foreboding in the country.
Although Ethiopia has experienced one form of violence or another for some time, its frequency and viciousness have dramatically soared after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to office in April 2018. Since then, the nation has seen hundreds of intercommunal conflicts and targeted attacks in which thousands of defenseless civilians including children, women and the elderly have been massacred in horrendous attacks across virtually the length and breadth of its territory. Millions more have been maimed, displaced from their homes and psychologically traumatized by the seemingly endless cycle of violence. Sadly, though, the federal government and the administrations of the regions where brutalities have occurred with sickening regularity have been unable to put a definitive stop to the scourge and afford succor to the affected individuals and communities, leaving the general public largely dissatisfied with and leery of the repeated pronouncements of the federal and regional governments that they are determined to fix the problem once and for all.
There can be no denying that now that the civil war in northern Ethiopia has stopped the unending conflagration of violence in different parts of the country is the single gravest threat to national security. It goes without saying that the foremost duty of a government is to ensure that security of lives of the citizens are protected and guaranteed under the law. This obligation can be properly carried out insofar as all persons who are invested in the collective security and welfare of their compatriots are not empowered to do so. Nevertheless, the government owes a particular obligation in terms of assuring that its security and law enforcement organs perform the critical tasks bestowed on them in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution, subsidiary laws and international instruments the country has adopted. Failure to undertake posthaste the required measures aimed at enabling citizens lead a life of peace and stability is bound to provoke horrible consequences.
Despite the quagmire it finds itself in, all is not gloom and doom for Ethiopia. In a sign that the security situation in the Oromia could improve, the OLF-Shene/OLF-OLA this week published a brief political manifesto purportedly affirming its commitment to a negotiated peace ending its armed struggle. While some of the “Confidence Building Measures” and “Security Building Measures” outlined in the manifesto may be non-starters for the federal government, whom it accuses of all manners of injustices, the others are matters on which it may be able to see eye with its sworn enemy. True, one must not labor under the illusion that this overture is certain to result in a swift resolution to the security crisis gripping Oromia. This said, the very fact that the group is willing to engage in a dialogue with a view to bring about a lasting political settlement as well as Prime Minister Abiy’s affirmation that his administration is open to talks is an encouraging development that both sides needs to see through to a successful dénouement.
Ethiopians have had enough of the carnage that has made life a living hell for their fellow citizens. As a nation that has been undergoing the upheaval attending the kind of drastic changes in the political sphere, it was destined to be faced with a web of complex and structural challenges. Fortunately, none of them are insurmountable given Ethiopians possess the indigenous knowledge needed to address them effectively. The sole path treaded by the federal and regional governments to contain the insurgency, namely law enforcement operations, has not yielded the desired outcome. Although the government cannot be faulted for trying to uphold law and order, it’s time for it to change tack in light of the dividends of arriving at a peaceful resolution of the security crisis gripping large swathes of the country. However, as the saying goes it takes two to tango. As such the expression of willingness by the OLF-Shene/OLF-OLA, albeit with its flaws, and the federal government to give peace a chance is a welcomed first step in a surely tortuous journey. If the peace building effort is to engender a win-win solution that is satisfactory all parties and the public at large, it’s of the essence to see to it that the process is genuinely inclusive and anchored in the national interest. It’s only then that Ethiopia and its people can steer on a path which enables them to realize their aspiration for enduring peace and stability.