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(File): A march for peace in Ethiopia (File): A march for peace in Ethiopia 

Ethiopian Bishops saddened by conflicts as the country goes to the polls.

Ethiopia’s Catholic Bishops are calling on Ethiopians to embrace ethnic co-existence and harmony. They also urge authorities to conduct elections that are “free, fair, peaceful and democratic.”

Vatican News English Africa Service.

Ethiopia votes in national elections next week on Tuesday, 22 June. The election is being held when the country is at a crossroads due to various ethnic related conflicts. Ethiopia hopes that next week’s election will usher in a re-set button so that the Government and federal states can once more unite and find a common purpose, simply as Ethiopians.

In their Pre-election message, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia (CBCE) said it hopes the election will also bring to the fore good and upright leaders who are close to people’s aspirations. The Bishops’ message is signed and released by the Conference’s Secretary General, Fr Teshome Fikre.

Our people do not want ethnicity, displacement and exile

“We hope the elections can “narrow the gap between politicians and the general public. The current experience confirms that our people are not ready to shoulder discrimination, ethnicity, displacement, exile and corruption based on the same conflicts which take the lives of innocent civilians and cause the destruction of properties. In other words, it is the wish and prayer of all of us to have the coming 6th national election to be free, fair, peaceful and democratic and acceptable to all,” reads the message of the Bishops.

The troubled Tigray region

According to a Reuters report, the Tigray region is the most dramatic example of ethnic and regional tensions that are surfacing across Ethiopia, imperilling the multiethnic democracy of Africa’s second-most populous nation and a regional linchpin.

Fighting in the Tigray region started on 4 November 2020 when according to the Ethiopian Government, forces loyal to the TPLF, the then-governing party in Tigray, attacked army bases in the region. The violence followed months of deteriorating relations between the TPLF and the Federal Government over what the party sees as discrimination against Tigrayans.  Estimates vary, but the Reuters report says more than 60 000 Tigrayan refugees have fled into neighbouring Sudan.

Bishops saddened by atrocities

The Bishops decry all ethnic violence in Ethiopia. They say conflicts that draw their causes from political, ethnic, and religious nature have displaced many and have taken the lives of many innocent civilians.

“Women became victims of rape and destruction of properties in Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, Benshangul Gumuzi, Somale Regional State, Afar Regional State, Southern Nations and Nationalities States and many other places, to mention a few. While living in solidarity as brothers and sisters, respecting one another, we are saddened by such atrocities which have cast a ‘dark cloud’ on a nation that has a long history on the African continent. We remind, therefore, the ruling party to take necessary precautionary measures to ensure the safety of citizens,” the Bishops said.

The challenges ahead

The Reuters report further notes that although a minority of nearly 6 million in the country of 109 million, Tigrayans dominated Ethiopia’s Government, armed forces and economy for almost three decades.

“With the conflict in Tigray set to continue, and many people there supporting armed resistance and even secession, the pressing challenge for the prime minister (Abiy) is holding the country together rather than how to further unify it,” said William Davison, an Ethiopia analyst at the International Crisis Group, a research organisation that seeks to prevent deadly conflicts.

The challenge ahead for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is enormous.

20 June 2021, 10:53