BY TESFA-ALEM TEKLE
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) which is designated as terrorist entity by Addis Ababa on Saturday said it will accept a call for peace and reconciliation made by the Ethiopian government, as a positive step but cautiously.
Yesterday, Oromia regional state president, Shimelis Abdisa, while addressing the regional state council, called on the group for reconciliation talks to end an armed conflict in the country’s largest Oromia region.
The offer comes as the Oromia rebels step up anti-government attacks in a bid to oust Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed government.
In a statement issued yoday, the group said a lasting and sustainable solution to Ethiopia’s complex political problems can only result from a comprehensive political process that culminates in negotiated settlements.
“Any call for resolution of the war on Oromia through civilized discourse is therefore a welcome news” part of the statement obtained by The East African Daily reads.
However, the group said the fresh calls made by the regional president “lacks the requisite clarity and nuance to be too optimistic about the overtures of an imminent peace process in Oromia”
It further reminded to the several formal and informal calls previously made by the Ethiopian government.
“Friday’s call is not new, both in form and substance. It did not add much to previous calls either. While details that might emerge in the days ahead are awaited, so far, the call is only a reiteration, at best”
In today’s polarized political landscape, finding a neutral mediator within the country is a far cry from a viable possibility, it said.
“Even if, by a stroke of luck, one finds a neutral local mediator acceptable to both parties, the OLA does not believe that any local actor will be able to operate outside the sphere of influence of the government to function neutrally”
“Meaningful mediation requires skills, logistics, and related facilities. OLA commanders and negotiators should be moved in and out of conflict zones. The necessary security guarantees and logistics can only be sourced internationally”
According to OLA, an effective process of mediation should be formalized and observed by neutral third states.
“Anything less will be a repeat of the failed ‘Asmara Agreement’ encountered between the OLF and the Ethiopian government”
OLA stressed that only international actors can be guarantors for the enforcement of mediation agreements.
“This is a singularly crucial requirement. Even internationally, only a handful of states are able to guarantee implementation”
In addition, although the group accepts that the participation of the Oromia regional government in the peace process however stressed that the federal government has to be the leading party of the negotiation process.
“While we recognize that the Oromia regional government should be part of a peace process that involves the region, the peace process with the OLA should however be led by the federal government”
OLA argued that it was the federal parliament, not the regional council, that proscribed the OLA.
“It is also the federal army that is leading the military engagement against the OLA on the ground, not the regional forces”
“Therefore, a peace process with the OLA is legally and operationally beyond the purview of the Oromia regional government”
The group further argued that the call for peace made yesterday didn’t technically address the OLA.
“The regional president still refers to a phantom armed group called “OLF-Shane.”
“While this may not make much difference in substance, it did not help clarify the already multi-layered ambiguities regarding the prospect for peace and how the Ethiopian government wishes to pursue it.
If the Ethiopian government is serious about resolving the war on Oromia, the Group said it should agree to follow proper national and international mechanisms.
In the past four years, thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the ongoing fighting between the rebel group and government security forces.
The Oromo Liberation Army is called ‘Shene’ by the government, and it has been declared a terrorist group by the parliament of the federal government about two years ago.
Addis Ababa accuses the rebel group, which is particularly active in the western part of Oromia, of attacking and killing civilians, government officials and workers, as well as robbing government institutions, including banks.
OLA however rubbishes those allegations as fabricated government propagandas intended to tarnish OLA’s image in its armed struggle to stand for the freedom of the people of Oromia.
(The East African Daily)