The Ethiopian government released high-profile leaders of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and opposition Oromo Federalist Congress and the newly formed Balderas party, the Government Communications Service said Friday.
The pardoned TPLF leaders are the founder of the group and longtime leader Sebhat Nega and his sister, Kidusan Nega, along with three others who were arrested during the military operation in Tigray.
Jewar Mohammed, the outspoken opponent of the government and a high-profile figure in the opposition Oromo Federalist and other party members incarcerated with Mohammed, suspected of inciting unrest in 2020 that followed the assassination of Oromo singer Hachalu Hundesa, were released, according to a statement.
Eskinder Nega, a journalist and head of the newly formed Balderas Party and all detained leaders of the party were also released.
The pardons come as Ethiopian Christians celebrated Christmas.
“In our culture, the end of conflict is reconciliation and forgiveness; We are a people with the values of reconciliation and peace, even to the point of marrying bloodthirsty militants, ” the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his Christmas message.
TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda, who recognized the move by the prime minister to "forgive" some of his officials, responded, saying he was talking effusively.
“Abiy Ahmed is waxing lyrical about forgiveness and chivalry in his Christmas message today. He would have you believe that he feels strongly about those values and exhorts us to follow suit," said Reda. "His daily routine of denying medication to helpless children of sending drones targeting civilians flies full in the face of his self-righteous claims. He is the linchpin of a criminal enterprise bent on destroying a nation but he would have you believe he is head of a well-intentioned project gone awry."
The war in Ethiopia between Tigrayan and government forces has been waging on for more than a year.
Since November 2020, the bloody war between the two sides has left the economy battered, devastated infrastructure and left thousands dead and many displaced.
A joint report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights accuses Tigray Special Forces, Eritrean Defense Force (EDF) and the Ethiopian National Defense Force of destroying infrastructure.