The de facto truce between Ethiopia’s federal government and the regional state of Tigray seems to hold in its first week of implementation. Sporadic firefights have characterized repositioning activities on both sides, while TDF forces have effectively withdrawn from the entire Amhara territory.
Last week’s news about the fall of the city of Alamata under the control of ENDF forces seems to have been denied, while it is confirmed that the federal army has taken control of a small portion of Tigray territory, along the A2 highway, on the border with the regional state of Amhara.
The forces of the federal army have thus established their outposts about one kilometer south of the city of Alamata, occupying the last flat stretch of land before the Tigray mountains, consolidating their positions on the border with Amhara and Afar.
The unsustainability of the conflict, both because its military and human dimension, and as well as because its economic cost, seems to have finally prevailed over any triumphalist and nationalist narrative of each side, convincing both the leaders of the federal government and those of the regional government of Tigray of the imperative need for a ceasefire.
On December 29 the Ethiopian Federal Parliamentary Assembly passed a law establishing a commission for national dialogue, thus responding to the many requests from the international community. The measure was adopted by a large majority, with 287 votes in favor, 13 against and no abstentions.
The commission is in charge of identifying strategies and instruments to foster the national reconciliation dialogue and to ensure the unity of the country, although at this stage it has no mandate for dialogue with the TPLF and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which remain considered as terrorist entities by the government in Addis Ababa.
Thus, expectations for a concrete outcome from the commission are quite modest at this stage, pending the understanding of whether and how the federal government intends to establish any line of dialogue with its Tigray counterparts and other opposition forces in the country.
The risk, therefore, is that the commission will not only be incapable of any real promotion of dialogue but, on the contrary, will act as a multiplier of resentment among the forces that have fought against Tigray and their allied militias. A totally inadequate response, therefore, that risks not having any of the effects ideally hoped for with the promulgation of the law that has established the commission.
As Foreign Ministry spokesperson Dina Mufti had announced on December 23, the commission represents for the government “an instrument of dialogue between citizens, but not a negotiation,” and therefore in no way represents a change in considering both TPLF forces and other armed opposition as terrorists.
According to Dina Mufti, therefore, the commission was set up with the intention of bringing together the country’s main organizations, public officials and citizens with the aim of discussing the effects of the conflict and possible solutions to end it, without in any way configuring it as an instrument of negotiation with the authorities of Tigray and the other rebel groups.
The same spokesperson then held a press conference on December 31, where he anticipated how the government of Ethiopia intends to strengthen its foreign policy action in Africa, above all in order to provide detailed and precise information on the progress of the military crisis, and promote what he defined as “strengthening pan-Africanism” as a means of defending the political and territorial integrity of African states from external interference.
A strategy geared towards increasing the country’s diplomatic capabilities, after the abstention of a number of African countries at the UN Human Rights Commission on December 17 led to the approval of an independent commission of inquiry into the violence perpetrated during the conflict.