The de facto truce between the federal government and the regional state of Tigray continues in Ethiopia, with a relative calm along the entire border with the state of Amhara and Oromia.
There are rumors of informal and secret negotiations between the federal government and the Tigrayan authorities, although this is officially denied by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who reiterates that the TPLF remains a terrorist organization with which the government does not intend to deal.
On the contrary, fighting continues along the border between Tigray and Afar, where TDF forces have penetrated in depth in an attempt to gain control of the main roads functional to the management of the flow of humanitarian aid to Mekelle.
The federal government is silent on the evolution of this new front of conflict, and has not provided any military support to the Afar militias engaged in the attempt to contain the advance of the Tigrinya forces. The regional government of Asayta has repeatedly complained about the lack of federal support, both on the ground and in terms of air support, claiming that the humanitarian situation in the border areas has reached unsustainable levels.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed seems also to have growing doubts about the relationship with Eritrea. Asmara would have played a decisive role in convincing the Prime Minister to launch the war against Tigray, contributing to the military defeat and especially in perpetrating the violence on the civilian population that have led to the international condemnation, sanctions and isolation of the two countries. A situation from which Abiy Ahmed would presumably like to extricate himself through a separation of his own interests from those of Eritrea, but which presents itself as an extremely complex and difficult choice. Eritrea in fact still controls large areas of northern Tigray, and the conflict with the Tigrinya is presumably only temporarily appeased.
At the same time, the relations with the authorities of the regional state of Amhara, which militarily occupy the entire western Tigray and do not intend to accept any compromise formula for its return to the authorities of Mekelle, is also very complex. An intransigence that reverberates on the Amhara internal politics, making the balance with Addis Ababa more and more delicate.
No less unstable is the situation in Oromia – where the Prime Minister is from – where the presence of OLA armed militias is compounded by the widespread resentment of the local society towards the federal government, held responsible for not having promoted the political demands of the Oromos, who represent the largest ethnic group and who for decades have complained of marginalization by the Tigrayan and the Amharas.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in an attempt to promote a dialogue of national reconciliation, has formally launched a number of initiatives aimed at reconstituting a national political, economic and social program, without however achieving any tangible success at present.
The limitation of these initiatives is largely represented by the centralization of power in the hands of the Prosperity Party, of which the Prime Minister is founder and president, and that continues to exercise a widespread control of the political and economic system, being perceived by the various Ethiopian ethnic groups – and not wrongly – as a sort of reincarnation of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which, under Tigrinya leadership, led the country until 2019.
Reinforcing this centralizing and hegemonic perception of the Prosperity Party was, for example, the appointment last March 15 of General Bacha Dele to the rank of ambassador to Kenya. Replacing the career diplomat Meles Alem-Tekea, who enjoys a solid reputation and comes from the ranks of diplomacy, the appointment of General Bacha Dele was seen by many as a reward for his zeal in the conduct of the albeit unsuccessful conflict in Tigray, but also as a warning to Kenya, which have sustained since the beginning of the conflict the condemnation of the violence, seeking dialogue.
At the same time, however, the federal authorities are trying to send conciliatory signals to some of the political forces opposed to the government, promoting common platforms for dialogue – with little result, at least for the moment – and decreeing selective amnesties for some members of both the Tigrinya opposition and other ethnic groups.
In this direction must be read the decision of the federal government of Ethiopia to announce the revocation of house arrest for the president of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Dawud Ibsa, whose arrest had been ordered in May 2021 on the charge of having plotted with the armed wing of the party, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), listed as a terrorist organization.
The request for revocation was formulated last week by the Ethiopian electoral committee, with a letter addressed to the Federal Police Commission and to the intelligence services (the National Information and Security Service – NISS), which denounced the illegality of Dawud Ibsa’s detention.
There are still many political prisoners arrested in the aftermath of the outbreak of the conflict in Tigray in November 2020, however, and still detained without specific charges. This was stated by the Director of the Federal Government’s Human Rights Commission himself, Daniel Bekele, who said that some of them had been transferred to the regional state of Afar.