Addis Abeba – Several leaders of opposition political parties who were invited to take part in the ongoing nationwide consultations on transitional justice policy options have walked out of a meeting on Friday 10 February, urging the government to give priority for peace and national political dialogue.
The consultation forums are being organized by the Ministry of Justice to engage various stakeholders in the formulation of a policy document that guides the transitional justice process that Ethiopia aspires to embark on.
Chairperson of the Sidama Federalist Party and Assistant Professor of Law at Hawassa University, Elias Tesemma, who took part in the consultation prepared for opposition political groups last week, told Addis Standard that “it is political problems that are trembling the country, and a consensus through national political dialogue should precede any attempt of ensuring transitional justice and reconciliation”.
According to Elias, opposition leaders who took part in the meeting raised questions on the very concept of transitional justice; the existence of a complete transition from war to peace as there are ongoing conflicts in the Oromia region and other parts of the country.
“Conflicts are pending, if we are speaking of only the Tigray war that would be limited in scope, and it cannot be national” Elias said, adding that, “there is ongoing war in Oromia, people are being displaced in several other parts of the country, and the root for all these problems is politics. So we [opposition leaders] asked for national political dialogue to come first, and for peace to prevail for transitional justice to happen”.
He also noted that some political parties remarked that the transitional justice process should be embarked on as a continuation of the national dialogue once political consensus is forged, and should be overseen by the National Dialogue Commission instead of establishing another independent body.
Elias said leaders of opposition political parties present at the meeting unanimously agreed on the need to prioritize national political dialogue and ensure peace ahead of transitional justice, and despite promises by the team of experts who were conducting the forum that they would take note of their recommendations, several opposition leaders walked out of the venue in opposition.
Representative of National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) Addisu Haregewoin, who is among those who walked out of the forum told The Reporter that “it is not the right time to talk about transitional justice as if we are a peaceful country with a bright future”, adding that killings and displacements of civilians in different parts of the country should be halted first.
“I don’t believe this is a genuine effort to ensure transitional justice, rather than to mislead the international community,” Addisu added.
Despite opposition from political parties the consultations on transitional justice policy options launched on Monday last week, was hailed by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as an essential step in the implementation of the Agreement for Lasting Peace and Cessation of Hostilities signed by the Government of Ethiopia and the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front on 02 November 02, last year.
Article 10 (030 of the agreement says “the Government of Ethiopia shall implement a comprehensive national transitional justice policy aimed at accountability, ascertaining the truth, redress for victims, reconciliation, and healing, consistent with the Constitution of FDRE and the African Union Transitional Justice Policy Framework. The transitional justice policy shall be developed with inputs from all stakeholders, and civil society groups through public consultations and formal national policy-making processes”. AS
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