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In Ethiopia, the political bet of Abiy Ahmed

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The amnesty granted by the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, to thirty-seven opposition figures surprised many Ethiopians as they celebrated Genna, Ethiopian Christmas, on Friday January 7th. It is this Christmas spirit that the leader first invoked when granting his pardon to the country’s main political prisoners. These releases are however cringe in an Ethiopia more divided than ever after fourteen months of conflict between the army and the rebels of Tigray.

The purpose of these releases, according to the Prime Minister, is to participate in an effort to “National reconciliation” in order to put an end to the civil war which began with the outbreak of the conflict in the region of Tigray, in the north of the country, in November 2020. The pivot of this reconciliation – while no ceasefire is has been signed – would reside in an inclusive national dialogue, and the participation of certain freed politicians should give it enhanced legitimacy.

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The head of government is attempting a political coup. Now rid of the military threat posed by the rebels of the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF) on its power – in November 2021, the latter had approached within 200 kilometers of the capital, Addis Ababa, before being repulsed – Abiy Ahmed is trying to redraw the map of political balances.

” Treason “

The thirty-seven freed personalities belong to three parties located at the ends of the Ethiopian political spectrum. The most spectacular liberation concerns six cadres of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF), a party designated as a terrorist organization by the Federal Parliament, matrix of the TDF, and the main military actor in the war against the central power.

As a result, the announcement of their release has provoked the ire of officials in the Amhara region, the second largest region of the country, whose soldiers and militiamen clash with the Tigrayan forces amid historical and territorial disputes. Amhara authorities are quick to characterize the campaign against the TPLF as “Struggle for the survival of the Amhara people”. For some of its leaders, like the chairman of the pro-amhara GLEAN lobby, Neamin Zeleke, these releases are a ” treason “. Until this announcement, they were Abiy Ahmed’s closest allies.

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