“We do not see the importance of the Ministry”: MPs
Members of Parliament have expressed outrage at the government’s continued use of heavy artillery and drones on civilians, particularly in the Amhara and Oromia regional states.
Officials of the Ministry of Peace were under scrutiny for their failure to stop conflicts and ensure the safety of citizens yet again this week, as they appeared before Parliament on January 11, 2024. MPs representing constituencies in Amhara and Oromia were particularly critical of the officials for a wide range of conflicts and human rights violations committed in the two regions.
“The wide use of heavy artillery and drones on civilians by government security forces has become rampant. It has become normal in many parts of the country. What is your Ministry doing?” asked Abebaw Desalew, an MP from Jiga, Amhara region, and a member of National Movement of Amhara (NAMA) opposition party.
He said there is concrete evidence for the use of heavy artillery and drones in Amhara, Oromia and Tigray.
Finote Selam, Wolega, Debre Birhan, and Debre Elias, are among the victims of the latest strikes, said Abebaw.
The MP pointed out that some of the strikes took place in his constituency, while others were conducted in the constituency of Binalf Andualem, minister of Peace.
“In Debre Birhan, heavy fire on a clinic killed a doctor recently,” said Abebaw. “In Wollega, heavy artillery fired on a protestant church has killed people. The slaughter and rape of civilians has become common.”
The MP warned the government’s actions are pushing ordinary citizens to enlist in armed groups.
Tadele Buraka (PhD), MP, pointed out that farming, education, and government services have all been affected or cut off by the wide conflicts.
“Why did the negotiations with armed groups in Oromia fail?” he asked Minister Binalf. “There is no peace in Amhara, either. The Defense Force is paying a huge cost. Cross-border conflicts are also on the rise.”
MP Shume Ayano accused the Ministry of inaction as armed groups cross in between regional states and occupy land.
The detention of members of Parliament in breach of their immunity privileges was also a concern raised during the session. Federal security forces detained Christian Tadele in August 2022.
“Taye Dende’a, a state minister of Peace, has been thrown into jail. Dr. Seyoum Mesfin, another state minister of Peace, has fled the country. Peaceful protest is banned in the country. Human rights bodies are unable to visit detainees,” said Abebaw.
“We do not see the importance of the Ministry of Peace. Why aren’t the budget and resources of the Ministry reallocated to other institutions?” he asked.
The Minister of Peace argued that a range of factors are contributing to the protracted conflicts in the country, emphasizing it is the result of the failure to handle political changes and reconcile with history.
“The conflicts in the country are not new, but the Ministry of Peace was established just a few years ago. Some MPs say there is no peace since the Ministry of Peace was established. It is this Parliament who ratified the law that enabled the formation of this Ministry. So the Parliament can inquire whether the existence of the Ministry of Peace is important or not, instead of asking us,” said Binalf.
Negotiations with armed groups in Benishangul and Gambela have succeeded in stabilizing the regions, according to the Minister.
However, he could not say the same for negotiations with armed groups in Oromia.
“The government is willing to end the conflicts peacefully. But peaceful resolutions have proven difficult at a time when everyone is preaching violence and armed struggle,” said Binalf.