By Biruk Alemu @Birukalemu21
Addis Abeba: After being blocked by security forces from meeting the media, a group of 35 local civil society organizations issued a joint statement calling for peace in Ethiopia, where the resumption of militarized hostilities between the federal army and Tigrayan forces reversed a five month lull in fighting following unilateral humanitarian truce declared by both in March this year. In addition to the ongoing militarized hostilities in parts of Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, another war is ongoing involving the federal and Oromia regional state forces and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), known by the government as “OLF Shene”.
The group of 35 local CSOs came together to meet the press at the Intercontinental Hotel in Addis Abeba on 06 August to conduct a joint press conference calling for the need for urgent peace in Ethiopia. But they were prevented from holding the meeting by security personnel wearing civilian and police uniforms who informed organizers they were “from the government.” The invited media representatives were also turned back by security forces. “This type of practice is not only against the rule of law, but also denies the role that civil society organizations should play for peace,” the group said of the inexplicable ban.
The event was then held online, according to media reports, and the consensus statement by the group calling for peace was published later on.
According to the statement, during the war that erupted in the Tigray region in November 2020 and late on expanded to the neighboring Amara and Afar regions, many innocent citizens were subjected to extrajudicial killings and women sustained horrific sexual violence; many others fled the wars and were forced to stay in various displacement camps and are facing terrible humanitarian crises.
The statement added that the Ethiopians who were physically injured in the war, whose properties were destroyed and whose families were scattered, have not recovered from their injuries until today. Civilians in the Tigray region are subjected to severe suffering and abuse due to the interruption of basic services and humanitarian aid due to the prolonged war.
Apart from the war in the north, conflicts are taking place in western and southern Oromia, Benishangul Gumuz and some areas of the southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) region where cases of extrajudicial killings and injuring of many citizens are taking place, women are subjected to rape and other horrible abuses, and countless Ethiopians are displaced from their villages due to the conflicts and have become aid protectors.
These wars have deprived Ethiopians of their basic rights to life, to physical security, to property rights, and to the right of movement, and have even threatened the country’s existence, the group said.
If these conflicts are not resolved peacefully, the country will enter into a crisis from which it will not be able to get out, the CSOs said, adding the war in the Tigray, Amara and Afar regions and the ongoing conflicts in other areas should be stopped immediately; honest, peaceful reconciliation talks involving all the parties to these conflicts should be started. The group also called for the restoration of economic and social services that have been interrupted in the areas and for aid to be delivered without hindrance.
Investigation and accountability measures should also be taken against those who have committed gender based sexual violence and other human rights violations and women and children who are victims as well as other sections of society who are bearing the bunt of these wars should be provided with immediate medical and social psychological support, and that the innocent victims who are not involved in the conflicts should be given protection under all circumstances.
Finally, the group also called for an immediate end to ethnic-based violence and discrimination, and for the federal and regional state governments to establish a special protection system for vulnerable minorities and marginalized groups of citizens living in different parts of the country. Warring parties and their supporters should also refrain from any war propaganda and violence inciting speeches and actions; local and foreign media, civil society organizations, religious institutions, political forces and activists should use their voices only for peace and reconciliation. The CSOs also called for the national dialogue process to be inclusive, open and follow a process that has received the legitimacy of the majority of the Ethiopian people to solve Ethiopia’s short and long term problems.
A similar call was made last year by a collective of 24 local civil society organizations in connection with the Ethiopian New Year, which is celebrated every year on September 11. AS