It is indeed regrettable to note these days that there appears to be a concerted campaign to exert undue pressure against Ethiopia. In spite of the relentless efforts by the Ethiopian government to engage positively and constructively on issues and concerns raised by partners, it is being given a cold shoulder. That is why the Ethiopian government is being forced to question the motives of some of the partners, particularly given the public statements and pronouncements they made recently. They seem to be short of showing a genuine desire to understand and help Ethiopia overcome its current challenges; rather, they would only be counterproductive and exacerbating situations. Those statements and pronouncements as well as the fake news and speculations propagated through the media speak volumes in this regard. It is in this relation that the Ethiopian government finds it absolutely necessary, once again, to make its position unequivocally clear on some of the most important and salient issues.
1. On the Humanitarian response in the Tigray region
The Ethiopian government has not only demonstrated its willingness and commitment to work with the international community to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Tigray, but it has also provided full and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to operate in all parts of the region. There were indeed difficulties in accessing some pocket areas because of security issues but that has now been addressed. That is why it is absurd for some partners to continue to lament lack of access in spite of the actual situation on the ground. The challenge at hand is quite to the contrary and it is related to issues of capacity and resource. This is well known by humanitarian actors operating in the region. Therefore, as the Ethiopian government has made it clear time and again, what actually makes a real difference is for partners to make a timely and effective response to the international appeal by availing more resources to the relief efforts and not repeatedly call for access ad nauseum.
2. On allegations of human rights abuses
On several occasions, the Ethiopian government has also made it clear how it takes any allegations of human rights abuses and crimes extremely seriously. That is why it acted swiftly to undertake the necessary investigation to verify those allegations and bring perpetrators to justice. It is in this context that a team composed of representatives from the Federal Attorney General and the Federal Police Commission had been deployed in the Tigray Region to carry out this investigative work. Last week, they have announced the outcome of their criminal investigations and the actions taken thus far to ensure the necessary accountability in this regard.
On the other hand, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has been investigating and reporting on human rights issues, including the Mai Kadra massacre, civilian casualties, sexual violence, and allegations of discriminatory treatment. The outcome of these investigations will certainly enable the government to bring the perpetrators to justice and comprehensively address alleged human rights violations and crimes that have occurred in the Tigray region. The EHRC has already publicized some of its preliminary findings and recommendations from its independent investigations. In addition, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have agreed to conduct joint investigations. Upon the invitation of the Ethiopian government, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights undertakes its own investigative work. Hence, continuously lamenting about human rights abuses, while the Ethiopian government has shown its unreserved commitment to get to the bottom of the issue and apply the full force of the law in ensuring accountability and justice, serves no other purpose than unnecessarily politicizing the issue and exert undue pressure.
3. On calls for Ceasefire and national dialogue
The Ethiopian government has been consciously working to promote national dialogue build the necessary national consensus in the country to chart a better way forward. In this relation, it organized series of discussions to engage with wider sections of the Ethiopian society, including opposition political parties, the academic community, Civil Society Organizations, and various representatives of the society, including women and the youth with a view to promoting a culture of peace and reconciliation, and build civic political culture. The significance of these discussions as the country gears up to hold national elections cannot be over-emphasized.
In addition, the Ethiopian government has also shown its readiness to engage with legal opposition parties, members of the civil society, the private sector, elders, scholars, prominent personalities, and others in the Tigray region to promote dialogue. High-level engagement has already started based on a roadmap developed by the relevant Ethiopian authorities. However, it should be clear that the push by partners to involve the TPLF in this national dialogue process is unacceptable. TPLF is an outlawed group, which endangered the country’s sovereignty and its constitutional order. The Ethiopian parliament recently passed a decision labelling it as a Terrorist Organization. That is why the Ethiopian government utterly rejects the repeated call by partners to cease hostilities and negotiate with the TPLF.
4. On allegations of clampdown on dissent
The unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations on the stifling of dissent and a crackdown on journalists that some media outlets propagate these days, while the country gears up to hold national elections, has no other purpose than to tarnish the government’s image and undermine the electoral process. Nothing can be further from the truth. This is indeed a government, which has rescued the country from the abyss and opened up the political space to safeguard greater peace, freedom, and democracy. Its reform credentials have also been well recognized not only domestically but also internationally.
This said, the Ethiopian government is the first to acknowledge that its reform efforts have not been without challenges. But it is determined to redouble these efforts with all the necessary vigor. That is why it is doing everything possible to make sure that the upcoming elections are conducted in a peaceful, transparent, and credible manner. The expectation is that this will usher in a new era of democratic dispensation to meet the hopes and aspirations of the Ethiopian people for lasting peace, freedom, and democracy.
One thing is for sure though building and nurturing a fully-fledged democracy and political culture is essentially a homegrown process, and it cannot be achieved through external pressure. The fundamental basis for the promotion of democracy is indeed the respect for constitutionality and the rule of law. And the primary responsibility of ensuring the necessary compliance in this regard certainly rests with the government.
What needs to be made clear here is that the Ethiopian government has no desire to clamp down on dissent. Otherwise, it would not have invited most of the opposition groups and politicians as well as journalists, activists and others who were in exile to return to their country and operate freely. It knows full well that this approach has been tried and tested in the past but failed.
The government does not believe that there are journalists or politicians jailed because of their political views and opinions. Those behind the bar are accused of violating the law. Therefore, they will have their day in court and the law will set them free if they are found not guilty. As far as foreign journalists are concerned, the government believes that it is not too much to ask them to strictly abide by the law of the land in carrying out their journalistic work. Those who do so have been operating without any difficulty. But it should be clear that the government is duty-bound to take the necessary legal action on those who are not willing and ready to comply with the law.
5. On attempts to meddle in Ethiopia’s Internal affairs
There have also been repeated attempts to make unwarranted statements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs, particularly in relation to the Amhara regional forces. Ethiopia is a sovereign nation, and it cannot accept any dictates from outside on how to manage its own internal affairs. The Ethiopian government wants to make it abundantly clear once again that deploying the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders is within its sole responsibility. It is mandated by the Constitution to ensure peace and security against any threats to the Constitutional order of the country. It is in this context that the Federal government has been undertaking the rule of law operations in Tigray.
While it is the desire of the Ethiopian government to remain always ready and open to engage with partners on issues of mutual interest and concern, it will be forced to reassess its relations if these attempts to interfere in its internal affairs continue unabated. It is indeed unfortunate that some partners chose to dwell on internal matters of Ethiopia. One can’t be indifferent when Ethiopia is flagrantly invaded while purporting to have too much concern about and trying to unduly delve into its international matters; for doing so simply bears duplicity. That is why the Ethiopian government rejects those statements, which are not only inappropriate but also completely unacceptable.
17 May 2021