My government is also prepared to assist community leaders in Tigray who are dedicated to peace. Indeed, we are already reaching out to them.
The international community understood what the TPLF was. Many had condemned its ethnic-based violence. Sadly, some were ready to turn a blind eye to TPLF torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings. Without the TPLF, it was said, Ethiopia risked fragmenting along ethnic lines, like Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Ethiopia’s collapse, the argument went, would usher in chaos across the Horn of Africa.
Common sense tells us that a regime based on ethnic division cannot last; but, as the saying goes, common sense is not always common. Fortunately, human societies can tolerate racial, ethnic, and religious violence for only so long.
In the roughly five years leading to my election in April 2018 as leader of the then-ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which until then had included the TPLF, popular challenges to the regime multiplied. The TPLF responded with its usual brutality. The 2018 vote moved the country in a new and inclusive direction. The political party I now lead is the first in Ethiopia that is not based on race, religion, or ethnicity.
The TPLF’s regional policy was a crude extension of its domestic divide-and-rule strategy. TPLF Ethiopia, for example, adopted a policy of exclusion and ostracism toward Eritrea, against which it waged proxy wars from the sovereign territory of unstable neighboring countries – entrenching their fragility.
An Ethiopia free of the TPLF will champion peace and inclusive development. Internally, our “New Ethiopia” will be based on equality among all of our constituent groups, including the suffering people of Tigray. Externally, we will act in a way that recognizes that our national interests are inseparably linked to those of our neighbors.
The peace deal signed with Eritrea in 2018 is a living example of what Ethiopia is able and willing to do. That agreement resolved a violent two-decade-old stalemate, and allowed Eritrea to reintegrate within the Horn and the global community. Most important, its citizens, and those in my country residing along the border, can now live without the shadow of war hanging over them.
My government has also sought to reset Ethiopia’s relations with our other neighbors. Following the political crisis in Sudan in 2019, Ethiopia was instrumental in bringing that country back from the brink of civil war, helping create a transitional government of civilians and military representatives. Likewise, Ethiopia’s stabilizing role in Somalia is second to none, and our efforts to bring stability to South Sudan are unbroken.
Ethiopia’s current foreign policy is premised on a belief that closer regional integration benefits all. Our efforts to make operational the African Continental Free Trade Area is a key part of this.