This surprise announcement comes after a call to
national reconciliation, launched earlier Friday on the occasion of the celebration of Orthodox Christmas by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose country has been torn for 14 months by a conflict between the federal government and the rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF ).
The objective of the amnesty
is to pave the way for a lasting solution to Ethiopia’s problems in a peaceful and non-violent manner, according to the government press release.
The key to lasting unity is dialogue. Ethiopia will make all sacrifices to this end, according to the text where the names of several opposition leaders are listed, but also important members of the TPLF.
theTPLF, a party which in fact ruled Ethiopia for nearly 30 years, has taken up arms since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to Tigray in November 2020 to remove the regional authorities – from the TPLF – who challenged his authority and whom he accused of having attacked military bases.
It is not immediately clear how many of the detainees concerned have already been released.
Nevertheless, the opposition Balderas party has announced the release of its founder Eskinder Nega, an opposition figure, whose name appears on the list of those granted amnesties.
The party posted on Facebook a photo of Mr. Eskinder and one of his fellow inmates, fists raised, outside Kality high-security prison in Addis Ababa, where they were being held.
The list of personalities amnestied also includes the former media mogul Jawar Mohammed, member of the Oromo federalist Congress. A former ally of Mr. Abiy – himself Oromo, the largest ethnic group in the country – Mr. Jawar had become one of his fiercest critics.
Like Mr. Eskinder, Mr. Jawar was arrested in July 2020 along with other opposition figures, after an outbreak of violence triggered by the gunshot murder in Addis Ababa the previous month of a very popular singer, Hachalu Hundessa. , standard bearer of the Oromo ethnic group.
These demonstrations and violence had killed 239 people in a few days, against a backdrop of ethnic tensions and resentments.
Among the TPLF officials cited in the government statement are Sibhat Nega – one of the party’s founders – Kidusan Nega, Abay Woldu, Abadi Zemu (former ambassador to Sudan) and Mulu Gebregziabher.
The conflict in Tigray, populated by six million inhabitants, has claimed thousands of lives and the region, subject to what the United Nations calls
de facto blockade humanitarian aid, lack of food and medicine.
This amnesty also coincides with a mission to Ethiopia by the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, who is trying to encourage peace talks between the government and theTPLF.
This conflict in the second most populous country on the continent threatens to destabilize the entire Horn of Africa.
Mr. Feltman – who resigned from his post this week – has had
rich and constructive discussions with Mr. Abiy in Addis, US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Thursday.
The United States will work to ensure that
any positive momentum drawn from these discussions can materialize, he said.
On Twitter, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres welcomed this amnesty.
I remain actively engaged in helping Ethiopia end the fighting and restore peace and stability, he added.
Victory, counter-offensive and withdrawal of troops
Mr. Abiy had quickly proclaimed victory in Tigray at the end of 2020, but a TPLF counter-offensive allowed the Tigrayan rebels to reconquer most of the region at the end of last June and to progress in those neighboring Amhara and the Afar.
The rebels claimed in November that they had arrived 200 km from Addis Ababa, prompting several countries to call on their citizens to leave the country.
At the end of December, the TPLF announced its withdrawal from Tigray after the federal army had taken over several strategic locations on the road to the capital, including Lalibela, a historic and tourist site known for its churches hewn in the rock and listed as a World Heritage Site. of UNESCO.