Ethiopia: Caucus of Opposition Parties Accuses National Dialogue Commission of 'Political Bias' and 'Failure to Ensure Inclusivity'

Addis Abeba — The Caucus of Opposition Parties (CoP), an umbrella of eleven opposition groups in Ethiopia, has accused the National Dialogue Commission of failing to fulfill its stated purpose of facilitating an "inclusive" national dialogue, alleging that the commission has instead been "used for political purposes" by the ruling party.

In the statement sent to Addis Standard, the CoP indicated that the commission was formed with the purpose of working towards "justice, national unity, understanding, and reconciliation among the people of Ethiopia."

However, CoP alleges that the commission has not met the requirements outlined in its powers and duties, which call for the preparation of "an accessible, inclusive, and equitable forum for peace talks."

The caucus claims that the commission's members were appointed "against the spirit of the declaration" and that the entity has been used to "improve relations with the international community to secure loans and aid," rather than focusing on its core objectives.

The coalition of opposition political groups argues that this has led to a lack of inclusivity and transparency in the national consultation process.

Furthermore, the statement questions the government's attempts to portray an image of lasting peace and stability by engaging in what the caucus describes as "impracticable reconciliation" with armed groups.

It asserts that the government has set conditions that "cannot lead to an agreement" with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and has issued a "transitional justice policy" without a genuine transition.

The CoP expressed its concern, stating that the National Dialogue Commission is "moving forward without proper oversight or investigation into the process." They argue that this lack of accountability contributes to the "ever-expanding armed conflicts, economic recession, high cost of living, and widespread social chaos" in the country.

The caucus pointed to a recent statement by U.S. Ambassador Ervin Masinga, made alongside the U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa, as "further proof" of the government's failure to uphold human rights and facilitate genuine dialogue.

"The ruling party/government's effort to confuse the public inquiry and the US government's recommendation...cannot cover up the reality," the statement asserted. It called on the government to "accept the request and the call and enter into an honest negotiation."

The group vowed to help coordinate an "all-inclusive, honest, and trustworthy national understanding and reconciliation" process to stem violence and resolve the country's crises.

The issuance of a statement by the Caucus of Opposition Parties came a day after the National Dialogue Commission announcement regarding the commencement of its agenda-setting work for the national dialogue process in Addis Abeba starting on 29 May, 2024.

In discussion with media professionals on 22 May, 2024, Ambassador Mohammed Drir, one of the commissioners, emphasized that preparations for this agenda-setting phase are nearing completion after the commission conducted participatory activities in ten regions and two city administrations.

According to Commissioner Mohammed, the agenda-setting process will begin in Addis Abeba on 29 May and subsequently move to other regions, running through o4 June, 2024.

He highlighted the importance of the forum's success in Addis Abeba for the subsequent work to be carried out in other parts of Ethiopia.

The commissioner further stated that discussions are also underway with authorities in the Tigray region to start the national dialogue process there as well.

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