Addis Ababa – The Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) said that armed groups could join the national dialogue if and only if they are willing to put down their guns.
Chief Commissioner of the ENDC professor Mesfen Araya, told journalists on Tuesday that the dialogue will be conducted in the coming five to six months but only those who are willing to put down their guns will take part in it.
“It is open to any group including the armed forces to come to the consultation but having their guns put down. If and only if they can do that, as long as our work involves the community, our door is open to bring their agenda to the table,” he said.
This comes in the back drop of the Oromia regional state also ruling out the possibilities of having peace negotiations with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) to end the war in Oromia.
The regional government called on Oromo youth who joined to fight alongside the rebel group known by the government as ‘OLF/Shene’ to “return back to peace.”
On 12 November the Council of Ministers discussed and approved a draft proclamation to form a National Reform Commission that will be responsible to oversee disarmament and reintegration of armed groups operating in Ethiopia into the society. The draft proclamation was sent to the House of People’s Representatives for deliberation and subsequent approval.
The chief commissioner outlined challenges the commission has faced over the past nine months since it commenced operations. One of the challenges the commission has faced in due process is its inability to reach Tigray due to the persistent conflict.
“The conflict in the northern Ethiopia turned out to be an obstacle for us to travel to the Tigray region and do the kind of work that we have done in other areas,” Mesfin added.
The commission said it has accomplished different works in collaboration with all regions and city administrations except Tigray region and discussions have been held with competing political parties, traditional leaders and other members of the society.
Adding that it will soon open offices in the regions and will have coordinators at the zone and district levels.
“Some of the key tasks we do in the coming months will include identifying consultation participants, gathering and formulating consultation agendas, identify, select, and put into practice the moderators, and minutes-takers who will conduct the national consultation forum,” professor Mesfin said.
The Ethiopian House of Peoples’ Representatives approved the establishment of the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission on the 29 December last year, in a bid to “pave the way for national consensus and keep the integrity of the country”.
In a commentary published on Addis Standard lawyer Milkiyas Bulcha has previously argued that in a country like Ethiopia, where the legitimacy of the state has been in deep trouble since its establishment, a non-inclusive national dialogue would further complicate the matter. AS