Ethiopian lawmakers have approved a bill to establish a commission for national dialogue.
The Federal Parliamentary Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour on Wednesday with 287 votes for, 13 votes against and one abstention.
“The commission’s establishment will pave the way for national consensus and keep the integrity of the country,” the bill said.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government has promised to create such a commission to establish a common ground on contentious issues.
The National Dialogue Commission, however, will not at this stage engage with rebels of the Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) or the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), both of which are fighting the federal army and have been declared terrorist organisations by the government of the East African nation.
Some government officials have said specifically that the new commission will not be engaging in talks with the Tigray organisation.
The 11-member commission is tasked with facilitating “an inclusive dialogue and reconciliation process that would heal wounds, build a consensus on key issues and help the country to solve its complex problems,” the bill added.
‘Inadequate attempt’ of solving political crisis
The commission’s creation may be an effort to respond to the foreign countries’ persistent calls for a ceasefire and inclusive dialogue to resolve the conflict, said Tsedale Lemma, CEO of Jakenn Publishing, publisher of the prominent Addis Standard media outlet.
“When the international community requested holding inclusive dialogue to address Ethiopia’s deepening crisis, there is no ambiguity on the need for such dialogue to be truly inclusive by having various stakeholders, including armed groups, be a part of the process,” Tsedale told.
The government so far has a strict policy of no negotiations with the armed groups, she said.
“With this as a background, it’s safe to say that the National Dialogue Commission is just an extension of the government’s inadequate attempt at scratching the thick surface in Ethiopia’s otherwise multi-layered and complex political crisis,” she said.
Army at Tigray borders
Ethiopia’s federal army and its allied forces recaptured swathes of areas in the Amhara and Afar region in recent weeks that were in the hands of Tigray forces since July.
The army has decided not to enter Tigray for now.
Ethiopia’s devastating war is believed to have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people and displaced millions of others, pushing hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions in the Tigray region, according to aid groups.
Both sides in the conflict have been accused of committing widespread abuses, killings and sexual violence.