Ethiopia’s Tigray forces are joining efforts with eight others in an alliance against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to seek a political transition after a year of the disturbing war.
The signing that took place in Washington on Friday includes the Oromo Liberation Army now fighting alongside the Tigray forces and seven other groups from around the country.
U.S. special envoy Jeffrey Feltman is in Ethiopia’s capital meeting with senior government officials amid calls for an immediate cease-fire and talks to end the war that has killed thousands of people and has displaced many since November 2020.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement Friday again called for a cease-fire and talks, and called on the Tigray and Oromo Liberation Army forces to “immediately stop the current advance towards Addis Ababa.” He also urged Ethiopia’s government to halt its military campaign, including airstrikes in Tigray, and the mobilization of ethnic militias.
The new United Front of Ethiopian Federalist Forces seeks to “establish a transitional arrangement in Ethiopia” so the prime minister can go as soon as possible, organizer Yohanees Abraha, who is with the Tigray group, told The Associated Press late Thursday. “The next step will be, of course, to start meeting and communicating with countries, diplomats, and international actors in Ethiopia and abroad.”
He said the new alliance is both political and military. It has had no communication with Ethiopia’s government, he added.
A spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Army, Odaa Tarbii, confirmed the new alliance. When asked whether it meant to force Abiy out, he replied that it depended on Ethiopia’s government and events over the coming weeks. “Of course, we prefer if there’s a peaceful and orderly transition with Abiy being removed,” he said.
“The goal is to be as inclusive as possible. We know this transition requires all stakeholders,” he added. But as for members of the prime minister’s Prosperity Party, “there would have to be a process. Many members would have to go through an investigation, possibly be prosecuted” for crimes related to the war.
Ethiopia’s government on Friday called the alliance “a publicity stunt, asserting that some of the groups involved ”are not really organizations that have any traction.” It also asserted that life in the capital had a “sense of normalcy” and rejected any notion of a siege.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, addressed the alliance Thursday evening when she tweeted that “any outliers that rejected the democratic processes Ethiopia embarked upon cannot be for democratization,” pointing out Abiy’s opening-up of political space after taking office in 2018. His reforms included welcoming some opposition groups home from exile.
The OLA spokesman, replying to the tweet, noted that some of the people who returned to Ethiopia were later put in prison or under house arrest. “A lot of goodwill was lost over the last three years,” he said.
Other groups signing on Friday include the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front, Agaw Democratic Movement, Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement, Gambella Peoples Liberation Army, Global Kimant People Right and Justice Movement/ Kimant Democratic Party, Sidama National Liberation Front and Somali State Resistance, according to organizers.