FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo has reconfirmed his position as a pre-eminent African statesman after successfully leading the African Union peace initiative to broker a ceasefire in the Ethiopian civil war.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, fell into war two years ago when the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the leadership of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, TPLF, failed to settle their differences amicably. 

The TPLF had headed the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF, a coalition of four political parties which held power for 28 years.

While Ethiopia prospered under this coalition, complaints over ethno-sectional marginalisation and political repression snowballed into protests. The emergence of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organisation, OPDO’s, leader, Abiy as Prime Minister on April 2, 2018 was a major power shift that increasingly alienated the TPLF. Abiy’s formation of his Prosperity Party from remnants of the EPRDF and other parties and his administrative reforms effectively ousted the TPLF from power.

To further consolidate his position, Abiy made peace with neighbouring Eritrea in 2018 and earned for himself the Nobel Peace Prize. The frosty relationship between the Prime Minister and the TPLF came to a head when the latter held a regional election in defiance of the Ethiopian federal government’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Abiy cut off federal allocation to Tigray and later reported an alleged attack on a federal army base by Tigrayan forces. Abiy declared war on Tigray in coalition with the Eritrean military.

Tigray was cut off from the rest of the world. Both sides helped themselves freely to war crimes. About 90 per cent of the people of Tigray urgently need food. Earlier efforts to end the conflict collapsed in August 2022. However, the truce brokered by Obasanjo’s group goes much further than just a ceasefire.

The TPLF has agreed to lay down its arms, and demobilise and reintegrate their fighters into the federal armed forces. With genuine commitment by the leadership of both sides, this unnecessary war will end, and Ethiopians will resume their normal livelihoods.

Every conflict leaves a lot of lessons for both the belligerents and third party observers like Nigeria. Ethiopia is a “true federation” of ten “National Regional States”, each of which conforms, more or less, to respective ethnic homelands. When the TPLF lost its long hold on power to a new coalition led by Oromia’s Abiy, its post-power syndrome clashed with Abiy’s “new sheriff in town” mentality, which led to war.

There is no reason that a new power coalition should not accommodate or tolerate each other as we see in advanced democracies like the UK. Politics should not be a zero-sum game. Dialogue is indispensable and should always be given a chance before precious lives and property are wasted.

The Obasanjo group should supervise the reconciliation effort to logical conclusion.

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