Jawar Mohammed to be released from prison by Ethiopian president

NAIROBI, Kenya – The Ethiopian government on Friday announced it would release several prominent political prisoners, including members ...

NAIROBI, Kenya – The Ethiopian government on Friday announced it would release several prominent political prisoners, including members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, as part of a step towards a peaceful resolution to the country’s civil war , which is now in its fifteenth month.

Among those due to be released was Jawar Mohammed, a prominent critic of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was stopped in July 2020 during popular protests in which hundreds of demonstrators were killed.

The announcement, which coincided with Orthodox Christmas, comes weeks after Mr. Abiy’s forces scored a series of victories on the battlefield against rebels in the Tigray region, in the north of the country, and nurtured the rare hopes that some form of conciliation would be possible.

In a statement, Abiy’s government said it would release the prisoners “to pave the way for a lasting solution to Ethiopia’s problems in a peaceful and non-violent manner” through a “national dialogue” .

But there was no mention of peace talks with its main enemy, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, or TPLF, which was forced to withdraw to its stronghold in northern Ethiopia last month.

The group said it was ready to stop the fighting if Mr. Abiy met certain conditions. Mr. Abiy has previously ruled out any negotiations with them.

“I think this is purely a political maneuver from Abiy,” said Awol Allo, senior lecturer in law at Keele University, England. “A national dialogue to solve our political problems is not the same as peace talks to end the war.”

Since Mr Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, launched military action in Tigray in November 2020, the conflict has been marked by accusations of widespread human rights violations, ethnic cleansing and a crisis. humanitarian aid that pushed at least 400,000 people into famine-like conditions.

In its statement on Friday, the government said “the key to lasting unity is dialogue”. But he also struck a triumphant note, asserting that “one of the moral obligations of an overcomer is mercy”. However, fighting continues in Tigray, where Mr. Abiy’s forces suffered a humiliating series of defeats last summer.

Foreign analysts and diplomats say Mr. Abiy’s formidable military comeback in recent months has been largely made possible by armed drones supplied by foreign allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, which turned the tide on the battlefield.

For months, diplomats from the United States, Europe and neighboring African countries urged Mr. Abiy, in private and in public, to end the fighting and open peace talks with the Tigrayans and other groups. armed opposition.

Last month, the Tigrayans said they were ready to start talks if the government released political prisoners – including thousands of Tigrayans detained by Ethiopian security forces in recent months – and ended a punitive seven-month siege on Tigray that cut off vital supplies of food and medicine. But the government has not taken any of these steps.

The list of prisoners to be released includes Sebhat Nega, an octogenarian founding member of the TPLF who was captured by Ethiopian soldiers in the first weeks of the war.

But perhaps the most significant announcement is that of Mr. Jawar, a leader of the Oromo ethnic group which represents more than a third of Ethiopia’s 110 million people, and one of the most formidable political opponents. by Mr. Abiy.

Mr Abiy, then leader of an Oromo political party, came to power in 2018 following massive street protests by Oromo youth led by Mr Jawar, founder of an influential media group and former resident of the States -United. .

But the two then fell out, with Mr. Jawar accusing Mr. Abiy of abandoning the Oromo case. Mr. Abiy jailed Mr. Jawar in July 2020 during the tumultuous protests that erupted in the wake of the unexplained murder by a popular Oromo singer, Hachalu Hundessa.

In recent weeks, Mr. Abiy has had quiet discussions with Mr. Jawar over his possible release, two foreign diplomats said. It was not clear whether conditions were attached to the release announced on Friday.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Jawar Mohammed to be released from prison by Ethiopian president
Jawar Mohammed to be released from prison by Ethiopian president
Newsrust - US Top News
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