The Ethiopian government and the Tigray administration appear to be edging towards peace talks to end the disastrous war that erupted in November 2020.
Reuters reported that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Tuesday that the federal government had formed a committee to negotiate with Tigray. “Regarding the peace … a committee has been established and it will study how we will conduct talks,” Abiy told parliament, the first time he has publicly referred to the body. The committee, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen, has 10 to 15 days to hammer out details of negotiations.
Debretsion Gebremichael, chairman of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and President of Tigray, said he was prepared to participate in a “credible, impartial and principled” peace process and would send a delegation.
This is very much to be welcomed.
International friends of Ethiopia respond
Alex de Waal responded to the emerging initiatives with a well-argued article, in which he pointed out that the path ahead will be difficult. He said there would be “a long and tortuous road before the country can see an end to the fighting, starvation, and slow-motion state collapse.”
Alex went on to suggest that peace will be most problematic for the Prime Minister.
Abiy faces the trickiest path. When he built a coalition for war, he dismantled the constituency for peace. He now faces the ruins of both, but needs a credible peace process for his own survival.
Abiy’s political talents lie in style, not in substance, and he has shown no understanding of how peace negotiations should be managed. His political philosophy of medemer (‘synergy’) was warmly received because it had no content — anyone could make of it what they wanted. His PhD thesis betrays ignorance of the theories and precepts of peacemaking — the photographs of his examination show an array of security bosses in the seats behind him, which no doubt impressed his examiners. Abiy’s political skill is keeping his rivals and opponents off guard, and doesn’t extend to hammering out a political settlement or running a state. A workable peace process will demand patience and forbearance from Ethiopians and from the mediators.
Now other, critical, voices have responded. Among them is Alastair Thompson, who has a long history of attacking suggestions that Tigray should be accommodated.
In a lengthy series of Tweets, he has attempted to suggest that the Tigrayans are the invisible hand behind Ethiopia’s current conflicts. He has been supported by Ann Garrison in the past, who has suggested that there is no seige or blockade of Tigray – a narrative that neither Washington or Brussels accepts.
Below is Thompson’s current narrative.
A revealing account from Alex de Waal of his views on the path to peace, backing the Nairobi-Kenya-US option for peace talks. He thinks they have a chance. However In his final paragraph he reveals his true animus for the Ethiopian PM. [The quote above]
For any close TPLF watcher, the possibility of this being coincidental is close to zero. Rather, this is an internal proxy mass murder campaign, intended to create leverage for the TPLF in coming “peace talks” between the GoE and the TPLF.
This new offensive has been bubbling now for months. When I was in Ethiopia in April, May and Early June the frontline in this insurgency was in Shoa, and it prevented me from going directly north from Addis up the A2 highway.
The nature of the Shoa OLA Offensive was as it is now with classical insurgency tactics. Fighters coming out after dark committing atrocities and then merging back into the population during the day.
There are numerous reports on social media (a source that I cite with some dread and trepidation) that this is what is happening now in Western Oromia.
Some reports say police and security forces are becoming OLA at night, committing atrocities and then disappearing again.
The attack followed announcements by the Govt that its “law and order operation” in Oromia had been successful with thousands of OLA members arrested and detained and thousands of weapons seized.
Here’s another report from June 14th. Via the
@addisstandard. https://allafrica.com/stories/202206150103.html… This coincides with feverish discussion about the possibility – now confirmed – of imminent “peace talks” between the FDRE (Govt of Ethiopia) and the TPLF.
It is not rocket science here to connect the dots. Gambella Liberation Army = ally of OLA OLA = ally of TPLF. And as we know now this was the beginning of a brutal escalation of an ongoing mass murder campaign against Amhara in West Wellaga.
The willingness of the TPLF to finally enter into “peace talks” was always somewhat discordant. As they have never come close to being willing to do so since this war began.
And the truth is they are not showing much willingness even now. But the fact that Alex de Waal says they are willing to do so is a very strong indication that this is now the “official” TPLF talking point.
They have imposed completely unacceptable “conditions” for talks however and are also disputing the venue. None of which is remotely surprising, but as far as the IC (US EU UN) is concerned they are now officially “willing to enter talks”.
But I am now beginning to think that any consideration that this is real needs to be read against this background of mass murder, being perpetrated by two proxy insurgent forces which are allied to the TPLF.
My working hypothesis at this point is that this is all engineered. It fits the known TPLF modus operandi perfectly. And any honest close watcher of the TPLF would I think agree.
The TPLF is finally willing to enter into talks with the GoE now because they are running a proxy military operation (which involves mass murder) to exert maximal pressure on their negotiating partner.
No path away from war without destroying the Tigrayans
It is difficult to interpret this as anything other than an attempt by Alastair Thompson to undermine the way of the current peace initiatives.
Anyone who has been following this tragic war will know how difficult it will be to find a negotiated solution. One only needs to consider the competing claims over Western Tigray to see that this is true.
Ethiopians do not need critics who appear to be attacking these careful, fragile attempts to get peace talks under way.