A Member of Parliament (MP) of one of Ethiopia’s opposition parties, Medrek (Forum) on Tuesday called for a political dialogue with the government.
Girma Seifu, the only opposition MP in the country’s 547-seat parliament, made the call at a session with Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn as he sought responses to questions raised by legislators on the country’s political, social and economic affairs.
“Recently, the government started dialogue with a rebel group. Why not with us – Medrek?” asked Seifu, referring to the recent dialogue between the government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).
ONLF is considered as rebel movement and it claims it is fighting for the independence of one of the country’s regions and has clashed with government military forces several times.
The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and ONLF began talks in neighbouring Kenya in September.
“We don’t have any ambitions for power, but we need the dialogue with the government,” said Seifu.
Desalegn, however, downplayed the request, arguing that the opposition had walked out of talks in 2010, refused to sign a document, and rather demanded separate talks with the ruling party.
“It was the party – MEDREK – itself, which walked out of talks. The party refused to sit together with another opposition party during the talks. We can’t build democracy by inviting one party and refusing that the other attends,” said Desalegn.
In 2010, a number of opposition parties that had seats in parliament started talks with the ruling party to discuss various national issues.
Currently, senior officials of Medrek are in jail serving 18 year prison sentences on terrorism charges.
Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum, commonly known as Medrek, announced in 2011 that it had successfully completed its transformation from a coalition to a front, comprising six political parties.