Conflict in Ethiopia: African experts express dismay

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Experts from all over Africa and Diaspora have expressed their dismayed at the deteriorating conflict in Ethiopia, and are calling for dialogue and mediation.

“We write this letter as concerned African intellectuals on the continent and in the Diaspora. Many of us have dedicated our professional lives to understanding the causes and potential solutions to intra-and inter-African conflicts. We are appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia – so tragically illustrative of the continued lack of uptake of the abundant commentary produced by African intellectuals on how to resolve African conflicts.

“We are deeply disturbed by the ongoing civil war in Ethiopia – which some refer to as a regionalised internal conflict, given Eritrea’s role within it. We note with dismay that protagonists to the conflict no longer include just the Tigray Defence Force (TDF) and the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) together with the special forces from Amhara, but now also include the Oromo Liberation Army on one side, and, on the other side, special forces from several other regions, as well as numerous conscripts. We note too, the advance of the TDF into Amhara and Afar regions, which, despite the TDF’s claims to be seeking to enable humanitarian and other supply access chains, is contributing to the expansion of the conflict across Ethiopia.

“Ethiopia is of continental significance, not only for its record of successful resistance to European imperial expansionism, but also for its being the home of the African Union (AU), our inter-governmental institution whose lack of effective engagement on the situation in Ethiopia we also find deplorable.

“The AU, its member states – particularly Ethiopia’s neighbouring states – must not allow Ethiopia to dictate the terms of their engagement in seeking resolution to this conflict.

“We condemn the fact that the conflict is affecting ever-increasing numbers of civilians – the deaths, the sexual violence, the refugee outflows, the documented hunger and unmet medical and psychosocial needs, the reports of widespread and targeted illegal detentions (especially because of ethnicity), the enforced disappearances and torture in captivity.

“We also condemn the destruction of hard-earned physical and metaphysical infrastructure across Tigray, as well as other regions of Ethiopia, including institutions of higher learning, houses of worship and cultural heritage. Ethiopia and its peoples have suffered enough. Ethiopia cannot afford any further destruction.

“All Ethiopians must recognise that a political rather than military solution is what is now called for, regardless of the claims and counterclaims, legitimate and otherwise, as to how Ethiopia has come to this place. Retributive justice, including the seizure and counter-seizures of contested land, and the detention of family members of recently outlawed political groups heightens tensions, leading to generational cycles of violence.”

As Ethiopia is on the precipice; the experts vowed that action must take action and therefore call on:

  • The Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to respond positively to the repeated calls for political dialogue, including with the affected and implicated groups in the Amhara and Oromia regions;
  • The Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to make positive use, in such dialogue, of the numerous African intellectuals who have put forward their views on pathways out of conflict;
  • Neighbouring countries to exercise maximum pressure on the Ethiopian government and the national regional government of Tigray to – under the framework of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the AU – submit to external mediation of this conflict;
  • The IGAD and the AU to proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict – including providing all possible political support to the soon to be announced AU Special Envoy for the Horn;
  • The rest of the international community to continue to support such IGAD and AU action with the carrots and sticks needed to get the protagonists and all other stakeholders to the table, keep them there and determine a political solution leading to more broad-based national dialogue on the future of the Ethiopian state.
  • We urge all Ethiopian leaders and civic groups to demonstrate the magnanimity and vision needed to reconstruct a country that has suffered far too long already. We call on any negotiated political settlement to include a process of public accountability for mass atrocities committed across Ethiopia. The history of the African state attests to the efficacy of an alternate path committed to truth, peace, justice and reconciliation.

This statement was signed by scores of intellectuals some of which are;

Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Professor of French and Philosophy, Director of the Institute of African Studies, Columbia University; Mamadou Diouf, Leitner Family Professor of African Studies, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University; Elleni Centime Zeleke, Assistant Professor, Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University; Godwin Murunga, Executive Secretary, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA); Boubacar Boris Diop, Award winning author of Murambi, The Book of Bones and many other novels, essays and journalistic works; Achille Mbembe, Research Professor in History and Politics, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witwatersrand; Jimi O Adesina, Professor and Chair in Social Policy, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa; Ato Sekyi-Otu, Professor Emeritus, Department of Social Science and the Graduate Programme in Social and Political Thought, York University; Felwine Sarr, Anne-Marie Bryan Distinguished Professor of Romance Studies, Duke University; Imraan Coovadia, Writer, essayist and novelist, Director of the creative writing programme, University of Cape Town; Koulsy Lamko, Chadian playwright, poet, novelist and university lecturer; Willy Mutunga, Former Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Kenya.

Suzan O/AllAfrica

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