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Several high-profile Ethiopian opposition figures were tasting freedom on Saturday after the government granted a surprise amnesty for prominent political detainees, including Tigrayan party leaders.
The government said the move was designed to promote “national dialogue” and follows a dramatic shift in fortunes in the brutal 14-month war between forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Ethiopian government forces retook a string of strategic towns from Tigrayan rebels late last year© Amanuel Sileshi Ethiopian government forces retook a string of strategic towns from Tigrayan rebels late last year
TPLF fighters withdrew to their stronghold in the northernmost region of Tigray at the end of December in the face of a military offensive by government forces that saw them retake a string of strategic towns.
Several TPLF figures were among those pardoned, as well as opposition leaders from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, and the Amhara.
“The key to lasting unity is dialogue. Ethiopia will make any sacrifices to this end,” the government communications service said in a statement late Friday announcing the amnesty.
Jawar Mohammed is an erstwhile ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed© Maheder HAILESELASSIE TADESE Jawar Mohammed is an erstwhile ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
“Its purpose is to pave the way for a lasting solution to Ethiopia’s problems in a peaceful, non-violent way… especially with the aim of making the all-inclusive national dialogue a success.”
It was not clear if the government was proposing any negotiations with the TPLF, the party that dominated politics for three decades until Abiy took power in 2018 but is now considered a terrorist group by Addis Ababa.