Addis Ababa – Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told lawmakers this morning that the Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) between the federal government and representatives of the Tigray regional states signed in South Africa, Pretoria, on 02 November was not to decide on whether Wolkait should go to Tigray or Amhara but to resolve the entire conflict in line with the constitution of the country.
“Concerning Wolkait, the Pretoria agreement is aimed at bringing peace, not at resolving internal border dispute. It will be dealt with in accordance with the laws and regulations of our country, the Prime Minister said, adding that he doesn’t know “why Wolkait is drawn in there.”
While responding to a question posed by a parliamentarian the Prime Minister said that the bilingual people of Wolkait were the binding bridge for both the Tigray and Amhara peoples.
Wolkait, which is one of the areas constitutionally part of Western Tigray, is currently under the administration of the Amhara regional state. It is considered as one of the thorny issues in the context of the war in Tigray and the annexation thereof of the area by the neighboring Amhara regional state.
According to Article 10/4 of the Pretoria CoHA, the two parties “commit to resolving issues of contested areas in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”. The agreement, however, avoided directly raising the occupation of Western Tigray, which has seen one of the worst violence in the aftermath of the November 2020 which is described by the US as acts of “ethnic cleansing.” A joint report by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International has also documented “Crimes against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing in Ethiopia’s Western Tigray Zone.”
In his responses today, the Prime Minister, too, has avoided the reference to Western Tigray and instead mentioned only Wolkait. He told lawmakers that “unless the people of Wolkait get the opportunity to self-determination, there won’t be a lasting peace. It is only if we open the room for the people to decide on their own issues that justice could prevail.”
“If we solve the dispute in accordance with the rule of law, it will be beneficiary to Wolkait, as well as Amhara and Tigray regions” he said. “If we keep saying that TPLF took it by force prior to the endorsement of the constitution, and we want to keep it forcefully, it is repeating the same mistake and can’t bring lasting solution to the problem.”
The PM has brought other territorial disputes in Ethiopia and said that similarly the Pretoria talks wasn’t about discussing those issues. “It’s not just Wolkait; Oromia and Amhara have a question over North Showa. Should we go to South Africa? Sidama and Wolayta have question on Blate, should that too go to South Africa? It’s not the place. What we agreed on is for it to be implemented according to Ethiopia’s law and order.”
The PM pointed at Wolkaites as distinct national group who, “whether we like it or not,” is “a nation that speaks inarticulate Amharic and inarticulate Tigrinya, and is a bridge between the two peoples.”
Discussing about issues of referendum, he said that the people “were displaced from the Amhara side for the past 30 years; they lived migrating,” he said, adding that if a referendum was called in their absence, it’s a depleted population and they will be hurting. On the other hand, the PM said that “many people have been displaced from the area “by the current conflict in Tigray” and if a referendum was to take place now, the “Amhara region will have an advantage,” he said. “It is known that Wolkaite is Wolkaite,” he said, “there may be someone who went from Adwa, there may be someone who went from Debre Markos, but Wolkaite is known,” he said, whether in Atlanta, Australia, or Jimma. Unless an opportunity is given to all “to decide about that place, it will not bring lasting peace.”
The people must be let to “decide their own destiny” and that “a solution will come only if we can give [such] democratic opportunity. I hope it works in a way that addresses those issues, that is why we took time, we waited.”
The Premier emphasized that the government will respect and is fully committed to implement the peace agreement it signed with TPLF.
“In winding up the conflict peacefully there will not be any loss but profit”, he said, adding that “we will keep our words and implement the accord honestly”. AS