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News Analysis: Premier defends planned talks with Tigray, says Ethiopia fighting against “grey war”, “errand runners”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the Parliament today. Picture: PMO

By Firaol Bersissa @FiraolBer

Addis Abeba: Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told lawmakers today that the ruling Prosperity Party (PP) has decided to pursue peaceful path with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) based on the national interest of the country, and that “our doors are open for peace.” The Premier said that the ruling PP didn’t say anything bad, but to express its wishes for peaceful resolution; and that its plans should not be pushed aside.

Negotiations take place even amid war between warring parties, he said, and mentioned examples of the military Derg and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. “The forces fighting us are plenty, and war with all of them will bring destruction; to give a chance for peaceful solutions is not a bad thing,” he said. He also addressed the issues that the TPLF was designated as a terrorist organization by the Parliament by the telling the lawmakers that the designation was done by the previous Parliament.

Grey war” and “errand runners”

In a lengthy address to questions from Parliamentarians the Prime Minister also said that what Ethiopia was facing today was a “grey war; not white, not black.” He mentioned as example the “information war” against Ethiopia seen in the global media reports during incidents of killings. “Ethiopia will be hard pressed to prevent this; Ethiopia wants to fight. But it is not easy”

Diplomatic pressure is the other example the Premier mentioned. By all accounts, less people died in Ethiopia in recent years than in other countries where death occur everyday, he said, but even as their own kids die in their cities, many countries “make our agenda their priority.”

“Errand runners are also in Addis Abeba,”

He blamed coordinated attack on Ethiopia by what he described as “errand runners”, who cannot stand on their own feet but do the bidding of our “enemies”, and said that there were areas selected to be dismantled (destroyed). Pitting Ethiopians along ethnic lines between the Oromo and the Amhara, or the Sidama and Wolayta; Afar and Somali; Benishangul Gumuz, Amhara and Oromo, as well as sectarian fault lines between Muslims and Christians. The challenge for the government is that before calming down Sidama and Wolayta, for example, the Issa and Afar are incited, because major campaign has been done to dismantle Ethiopia using these fault lines, he claimed, but said that so far it has proved to impossible.

“I assure you that no country that fights Ethiopia can dismantle it; it may be possible to weaken us economically, through pressures…but it is impossible to dismantle Ethiopia,” he vowed. However, “that does not mean they will refrain from attempting. The door is plenty, for “death merchants” who benefit from this. “Errand runners are also in Addis Abeba,” he said.

The Prime Minister expressed his condolences for the lives lost due to recent mass and indiscriminate killings, a phenomenon that has been steadily rising in the country for the past few years, but he emphasized that security forces were carrying out their responsibilities to protect even under situations he described as extreme and demanding of sacrifices.

With regard to the recent atrocities in Western Oromia, the Prime Minister said the victims were born in Wello and went there at five and six years of age; they lived, married, studied, farmed, produced in the area. “Killing these people doesn’t fulfill any political objective. Killing innocents like this shows the the intent of those who want to destroy Ethiopia.”

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“Thousands were killed in the last six months alone by terrorists”

“Shene is the prime enemy” of the Oromo

He blamed the killing on “Shene”, equating it with “terrorism,” which he said was “multi-faceted and happens worldwide including in countries with developed capabilities.” He mentioned the US, which has one of the most effective law enforcement capacities, and yet, he said more than 20, 000 people were killed in the US in one year; “in six months alone in Los Angles county 224 people were killed,” he said and mentioned other places including Philadelphia, Washington D.C, New York, and Chicago. “Thousands were killed in the last six months alone by terrorists,” he said and told the lawmakers that the problem was “a global problem” that should not be taken as Ethiopia’s only problem. It was the main agenda of the recent G7 meeting, too, according to him.

He blamed the “Shane” for bringing similar problem to Ethiopia and said that “Shene is the prime enemy” of the Oromo people that lacks a political agenda and agency and is only used as instrument for other entities’ nefarious purposes; he vowed to continue the fight against the armed group.

Albeit promising to curb the increasing violence across the country, even at the great of expense to security forces, the Prime Minister stressed that the people of Ethiopia at large should cooperate with security forces to bring a sustainable solution to the country’s precarious state of security. The Prime Minister mentioned that around 80 police officers and cadres were killed in Derashe Special Woreda, in SNNP regional state as example of sacrifices paid by security forces.

However, in order to tackle Ethiopia’s security challenges, the government is continuing its major security reform process within the security sector including the army, the intelligence and the police, he said and this institutionalization considers four major pillars. Ethnicity: the national defense forces and other law enforcement agencies shouldn’t be used for ethnic benefits; faith: Ethiopians have faith (majority are Christians and Muslims) but faith can’t become a part of these institutions; political views: everyone has political views, but this cannot be allowed to influence these institutions; and that they were free from rent-seeking practices.

This major institutional building process has resulted in major outcomes, he said, and added that within “the national defense forces this process [has shown] a 95% success”; similarly it has also shown substantial improvements within the police and the intelligence.

In addition to the institutional reform processes in security sector, the government’s is following what he said was “a 4D strategy” : prevent, pursue, protect and prepare.”

Responding to a question of lack of holding perpetrators of crimes accountable, within the security, the Prime Minister defended the works being done by security forces to protect Ethiopians and blamed “politicians, activists” who “occupy the airwaves” of unjustly pointing fingers as the security “but when the police pursue criminals and brings them to court, they are nowhere to be seen.”

According to him, more than 11, 000 people were arrested in the wake of the violence in Oromia region following the June 29/2020 assassination of poplar Oromo artist Hachalu Hundessa, and more than 9,000 were charged of whom some 4,000 were sentenced.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister defended his administration against critiques that the administration’s priority while people are being killed were to plant trees. He told the lawmakers that such criticisms come from the “enemy, don’t listen,” he said, adding “While people die, we will plant seedlings in the same place so that at least the body has a shed.”

Danger of dismantling the system

Responding to calls on establishment of a Transitional Government, the Prime Minister dismissed such notion as a myth that has been there since the time of Emperor Haileselassei, and scolded those who demanded as people who “were not prepared”. He also said that those who asked such question then “are asking it today”; the question didn’t go way during EPRDF either, he said.

Those who keep asking for a Transitional Government “didn’t understand” its dynamics during the Emperor, the Dereg, and the EPRDF, and they cannot now, “because they don’t understand the danger of dismantling the system. Many of them never administered one Kebelle, one agency, but they want to teach us,” he said.

“You should know that you have four years.”

His government has three things to address the issue he said: established and independent election board and held an election “better than elections held so far”; included cabinet members from defeated contending parties; and established a national dialogue commission. “You should know that you have four years. No force will dismantle you using media campaign”, he told the lawmakers, but those calling for transitional government should be allowed to express their wishes,” while the government will continue to do its job, and that it is “not necessary to lend that much ear” to such calls. AS

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