ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s ruling party is meeting Wednesday with the nationally registered main political opposition for a dialogue aimed at long-term stability.
The move came a week after Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn promised to engage with the country’s opposition that “chose the peaceful path”.
Accordingly, about 23 opposition parties sat in discussion with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) at the office of the government whip in a closed session.
The meeting, the first in a series, will first agree on procedural and protocol issues followed by substantive issues.
“The move is excellent for bringing about durable solutions in the country,” Chane Kebede, head of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP), a major opposition party, told Anadolu Agency.
But he added, “We did not expect the dialogue to be hosted by the ruling party as it turned out to be. With a ruling party presiding over a political dialogue, the idea of equivalence concerning political parties as practiced in any democratic state would be undermined.
“We will raise our concerns at the meeting because after all it is going to be an event where protocol and procedural issues are going to be discussed first to lay out the foundation for future substantive discussions.”
State of emergency following protests
Election, governance, economic participation, political space, and youth employment are the issues expected to take center stage.
Additionally, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield will arrive on Thursday to encourage the participants, said a government representative who declined to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency after an Oromo thanksgiving festival turned into a protest on Oct. 2. More than 56 were killed in a stampede after security forces fired live bullets in the air and teargas to disperse the crowds.
The ensuing violent protests saw the destruction of greenhouse farms and factories as well as heavy-duty trucks, triggering the government to take action.
Desalegn told a press conference last week that 22,000 people were arrested in connection with violent protests nationwide, most of whom were later released.
In a report last week, Human Rights Watch claimed that the Ethiopian government’s security forces continue to use torture as a means of investigation.