Ethiopia’s path to permanent peace is facing early bumps after the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) issued conditions without which they will not take part in negotiations.
On Thursday, the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reaffirmed that it is ready to engage in peace at any time and at any place. Billene Seyoum, Prime Minister’s Spokesperson said Addis Ababa was ready for talks led by the African Union, whose envoy, former president of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo has been trying to mediate.
But here is where Addis Ababa differs with the TPLF. The TPLF says Kenya should mediate the conflict, not Obasanjo.
Other conditions are: critical services like electricity supply, banking, telecom, transport, and fuel returned to Tigray before talks begin.
However, Addis Ababa has rejected the condition saying a formal ceasefire has to be signed before any resumption essential basic services to Tigray.
In spite of the demands, Addis Ababa’s seven-member Peace Committee tasked by Dr Abiy to negotiate with Tigray on Thursday unveiled a new peace proposal that it says it had deliberated upon and adopted. The peace proposal is mainly three-pronged: It proposes for peace talks to take place within the coming weeks without any preconditions, something TPLF have already placed a new demand on.
Secondly, it proposes initial talks should focus on reaching and formally signing a ceasefire agreement followed by an in-depth political dialogue between leading towards a lasting settlement.
As a third pillar, it proposes for other pending issues to be addressed through the national dialogue.
“Towards that end and in order to ensure a sustained provision of humanitarian aid as well as to facilitate the resumption of basic services and also to resolve the conflict peacefully; the Committee has underscored that there is a need to conclude a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible,” it said.
“To expedite this process, the government peace Committee has deliberated upon and adopted a peace proposal that would lead to the conclusion of a ceasefire and lay the foundation for future political dialogue.”
The Committee was expected to forward the proposal to the African Union High Representative Olusegun Obasanjo before end of the week.
But it seems the team’s terms of reference have been subject to mistrust by the TPLF.
Getachew Reda, Senior Advisor to TPLF Leader Debretsion Gebremichael lampooned the committee as a diversion.
“The So-called Peace Committee established by the Abiy Ahmed regime is engaged in its usual game of obfuscation to hoodwink the international community while its forces are actively provoking our forces on various fronts,” he argued on Wednesday.
He said the government has openly defied their oft-repeated promise to take measures aimed at creating a conducive environment for peaceful negotiations such as ensuring unimpeded humanitarian access and restoration of services to Tigray.
“If anything, the Abiy Ahmed regime has made it abundantly clear that it has no appetite for peaceful negotiations except as delaying tactics before it can unleash yet another round of genocidal campaign against the people of Tigray"
On Thursday, the government rejected accusations it had violated the ceasefire. Guns have largely been silenced since March after the two warring parties committed for a truce which mainly aimed to allow humanitarian aid to war ravaged Tigray region.
The TPLF said it recognises the African Union and the entire international diplomatic community's efforts to enhance negotiations to end the hostilities and resolve conflict in a peaceful manner.
It said the Tigray government has shown its firm stance on peace by directing the Tigray fighters not to cause any military confrontation until the peace option is exhausted.