Congress for Somali Cause, a recently established “group of like-minded political figures and groups, academics, activists that are united by the urgent need to articulate and build consensus around one overriding Somali political cause.” issued a statement where the congress’ recommendations for the planned national dialogue were listed alongside issues of concern reading the transparency and impartiality of the process. The congress accused the ruling party of manipulating the national dialogue to consolidate its power.
Noting the optimism international stakeholders have in the dialogue, the congress said, “A national dialogue to determine the future of 120 million people cannot be undertaken in the midst of a raging civil war and an unfolding humanitarian catastrophe.”
The statement put de-escalation of conflicts, end to inter-state conflicts, a permanent ceasefire, and ultimately a negotiated political settlement to end the civil war across the country as the first step that must be taken to create a conducive environment for a national dialogue to take place. The congress joined local and international stakeholders in calling for access for delivery of humanitarian assistance to victims of war, drought, famine, and displacement.
That was followed by a demand to release all political prisoners and their families without preconditions. The congress also called for the expulsion of foreign armed groups from all areas of the country, particularly Eritrean military, security, and intelligence contingents. Further addressing the widespread conflict across the country by restricting the activities of regional state militias and paramilitary forces.
The congress also commented on the proclamation establishing the National Dialogue Commission and said, “The process so far raises concerns that the Prosperity Party is misusing and manipulating the national dialogue as a convenient vehicle to consolidate its power,” further underlining the need to involve armed oppositions in the dialogue. “The government must repeal the decree that designates the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) as terrorists for the National Dialogue Commission to invite them to participate,” the statement read.
The congress underlined the need for a holistic agenda setting as well, pointing out the importance of identifying and agreeing on contested issues that fueled conflicts. “The apparent singular commitment to erasing the legacies of the EPRDF era is bound to be disappointing,” the congress warned.
Like other opposition parties in the Oromia region, the Congress for Somali Cause criticized the lack of transparency in the national dialogue processes. The congress stated that lack of transparency in the nomination process and selection of prospective commissioners has eroded trust and confidence. “ It is difficult to believe a convener selected by a parliament dominated by a single party is credible,” the statement added.
The statement further established that “The National Dialogue Commission in Ethiopia is a government-run institution, concluding, “The process now makes implementation of the dialogue recommendations subject to the incumbent’s discretion.” Dispatch