The African Union (AU) on Saturday welcomed a decision by the Ethiopian government to release senior opposition political figures who had been detained.
In a statement, AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat described the release as an “important gesture of appeasement” of the political situation in the country which has been plagued by a deadly conflict between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a rebel group, and the Ethiopian government since November 2020.
Mahamat said he hoped the release will be the “trigger for a political process, paving the way for the implementation of a genuinely inclusive National Dialogue process for the peaceful and consensual solution to the political and institutional problems facing the Federation”.
Mahamat further pledged the bloc’s full support for the dialogue process while appealing to all parties involved in the dialogue to act with “courage and determination” during the process.
The decision by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government to release the opposition figures coincided with efforts to open dialogue between the government and rebels in northern Ethiopia leading up to Orthodox Christmas.
Some of those released include Jawar Mohamed, Eskinder Nega and Bekele Gerba – both influential opposition political figures in Ethiopia – and Sibhat Nega, a former senior leader of the TPLF.
The United Nations estimates that hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions of the country face famine-like conditions and remain in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.