Wazema Radio- The coordinator of the Democracy Building Center in the Prime Minister’s Office, Minister Dr Alemu Sime gathered representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) on Friday (Sept 9, 2022) and warned that the government believes that the statement issued by the CSOs is wrong and the government will take action against those who do not correct it.
On the 6th of September, 35 indigenous CSOs called for an immediate end to the “war in Tigray, Amhara and Afar region and conflicts in other areas”. The Minister criticized that the “urgent call for peace” did not consider the danger the country is currently facing, and did not explain the destruction committed by the TPLF.
More than one hundred representatives of civil society organizations attended the meeting held at Elilly Hotel in the afternoon of Friday, September 9, 2022. The meeting was closed to the media, but the State media EBC reporters did enter at a later stage, according to attendees.
At this meeting, Alemu Sime explained the current situation, but his main focus was to express the dissatisfaction and anger felt by the government because of the statement from the CSOs. The Minister added that if the CSOs and organizations are unable or unwilling to support the government in the war with the TPLF, they should only “simply do the work they have signed up for” and refrain from commenting on current issues. Apart from that, he said, “We will not allow it.” Apart from working in the field where everyone is registered for, Dr. Alemu Sime said that there is no “tolerance” for those who issue “statements that demoralize the fighting Defence”.
According to the information collected by Wazema, the representatives of the CSOs were divided into two positions reflected in the meeting. The voices of the representatives who fully supported the government regarding the war and submitted their questions were heard prominently. There was a representative of an NGO who read the poems he had written for the Prosperity Party and for the Prime Minister. Representatives who used to accuse CSOs as “who labor to get foreigners’ crumps” and known to support the government did not refrain from expressing their support. There were civil society representatives who expressed their support for the minister’s analysis and positions by clapping.
On the contrary, we understood from the audience that the minister’s speech and the atmosphere of the meeting were “stressful and worrying”. Saddened by the Minister’s position and opinions of others who supported him, a prominent legal expert objected to the criticism of the organizations that signed the Call for Peace statement, saying, “You can close our organizations. But this days will pass. Don’t forget that this day will pass…if everything is done according to the law, it will benefit us all,” he said. We have heard that another organization which was one of the signatories explained that the call for peace is not only for Tigray, but for all conflicts, and that the call is not only for the government but for all the parties to the conflict. On the other hand, a female participant said that the organizations do not have party bias, which led the Minister to give a long explanation that the issue is not a party issue, but a national issue.
The Minister bitterly criticized where the CSOs in their statement blamed the TPLF and the federal government as “warring parties”. “how come the government is equated with a gang that is up to disintegrate the country”, he asked. He criticized the CSOs, “If you cannot expose the TPLF, if you are afraid, leave it. If you can’t talk about the ugly side of the TPLF, leave it alone. When you are afraid, when you say the TPLF is a warring party, the UN says that the TPLF has robbed it of so much fuel.”
“At this time, we don’t want anything to divide our force. If you don’t have the morale to support us, if you don’t have the will, keep quiet. Just do the work for which you have taken permits,” he warned.
The Minister expressed that the government regretted the CSOs’ attempt to present themselves as neutral on the issue of the war, saying that the issue is not a political agenda or a difference in the party’s political program, rather it is a conspiracy by the enemies of Ethiopia with their internal allies to weaken and destroy our country and questioned the neutrality of the CSOs. Citing the support shown by the Director of The World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom for TPLF, Alemu Sime has argued that the question of neutrality is problematic.
The Minister explained that the war with the TPLF is not a matter for the government and the party, but for all Ethiopians.
“If there is any CSO that says, ‘the survival of the country is none of my business’, its permit should be revoked . Or tell us clearly [TPLF’s attack] is not against the country, but us [government officials]. It is necessary to communicate clearly. Let each one of you state your position. Ethiopianism is tested, truth and patriotism are tested at such a time, let’s talk”, said Alemu Sime in the introduction of his speech.
The Minister who said that not everyone of the CSOs believed in the statement issued jointly and that “most of them were misled”, advised the CSOs can issue joint statements after discussing through their council or otherwise on their own individually. Alemu Sime did not specify which organizations he said were misled nor those that misled others. As of Saturday (Sept 10, 2022) afternoon when this news was prepared, no CSO publicly came out saying have been misled and signed the joint statement. Among the organizations that have signed the statement, Wazema spoke to the leaders who said that they saw the draft of the statement and discussed it in their organizations, and nobody misled them to sign it. Another CSO leader, who considered the Minister’s speech as a threat, said that they expect another statement to be issued that contradicts the “call for peace statement” and that they are worried that the differences between the CSO may widen.
It was stated in the past that the press conference which the CSOs had called on the 6th of September at the Inter-Luxury Hotel was blocked by individuals who said that they were part of the government. But the Minister told the attendees of the meeting that he did not know how the press conference was blocked. Wazema confirmed that the press conference was held on the same day Zoom and that journalists were present.
In the last week’s “urgent call for peace”, local civil society organizations called for an immediate end to the war in the northern part of our country in Tigray, Amhara and Afar region and conflicts in other areas, and for the start of honest, peaceful and reconciliation talks involving all parties involved in the conflicts.
Their statement added that apart from the war in the north, conflicts in western and southern Oromia, Benishangul Gumuz and some areas of the southern region are killing many citizens and causing physical injuries. The statement said that women are being raped and other horrible attacks are being done on them. They also expressed their fear that if conflicts are not resolved peacefully, our country will enter into a crisis from which it will not be able to get out. Since the beginning of the war in Tigray, this statement is the second time that local civil society organizations have presented a joint call for peace. [Wazema Radio].
Original report in Amharic was published by Wazema Radio Translated into English by UMD Media.