Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed freed several opposition figures from prison and pledged to open dialogue with political opponents after 14 months of war that has threatened to tear apart Africa’s second-most populous nation.
The surprise amnesty, announced by Mr. Ahmed in a televised speech on Friday, came after days of a lull in fighting with the rebellious region of Tigray. A government offensive has resulted in the capture of swaths of territory and several towns from the rebels since December.
Among the opposition figures freed are Sebhat Nega, the founder of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and Abay Weldu, the former president of Tigray, a state that has been fighting Mr. Ahmed’s government since late 2020. Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict and two million others have been forced from their homes. Other key figures freed include opposition leaders Jawar Mohammed and Eskinder Nega.
The amnesty marks a significant development in a conflict that has threatened to splinter a key ally in the U.S.’s antiterrorism operations in the region. Fighting has raged across northern Ethiopia since Mr. Ahmed ordered an offensive in response to an attack by TPLF forces on a government military base in November 2020.
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