Cover photo : File (Ethiopian government representatives holding talks with OLF leaders in Asmara)
Ethiopian government under the leadership of Abiy Ahmed has done an excellent job in terms of broadening the political space in the country. The way it went about it was commendable too. First, it passed a bold political decision to release all political prisoners. Then it reformed legislation that used to be a tool to incriminate politicians (activists and members of the free press).
The next order of business was to make peace with political actors and opposition groups who resorted to armed resistance against what was, six months ago, a ruthless TPLF government under the guise of the ruling coalition EPRDF.
Rebel movements with fighters based in Eritrea responded positively for the call to return to Ethiopia and wage a peaceful struggle from within Ethiopia and they returned to the country with their rebel fighters.
A peaceful struggle is not open for interpretation. It only means peaceful no matter how different the strategy is; there is no other way to understand it. With an implicit and explicit agreement to end armed struggle and resort to peaceful struggle, most leaders returned to the country after a long time.
The government also demonstrated commitment in terms of making the return of most of the exiled political leaders a face-saving one by dignifying their arrival in the country. Not only did it allow followers of these political leaders to organize a rally like reception ceremonies, but it also sent government ministers all the way to Bole International Airport to officially welcome the political leaders.
The reception for OLF leaders was somewhat construed rather as a show of power on the part of the party itself. In fact, it was even seen as a form of agenda setting event including the “ownership of the capital Addis Ababa. “OLF (in fact, all ethnic Oromo parties later took same aggressive position on the issue o Addis Ababa) wanted to project that Addis Ababa (the very symbol of Ethiopian identity in all its forms and seat of international organizations) is an ethnic Oromo land. A day before the arrival of OLF leader, Dawud Ibsa, supporters of the radical organization clashed with the youth in Addis Ababa as they allegedly tried to paint pedestrian route and streets in the capital with flag colors of OLF (because “Addis Ababa is ethnic Oromo Land”).
Two days later, (in fact some sources say it started days before the arrival of OLF leaders) there was a massacre in Burayu, in the western outskirts of Addis Ababa, and more than 60 people were killed, and thousands displaced. The government was not clear to the public, to date, when it comes to disclosing perpetrators of the attack.
However, it was clear for the public that the attack was launched by radicalized Qeerro (a clandestine ethnic Oromo youth.) For many, there was the understanding that the attack has something to do with OLF ideology and its political strategy. As the Youth in Addis Ababa took to the street a day after Burayu massacre to condemn it, Addis Ababa police reportedly arrested hundreds of them.
Two more ethnic-based violence took place in different parts of Ethiopia after the Burayu massacre and there are indications that they are linked to OLF. Government prosecutor has even unveiled that the June 23 grenade attack was carried out by OLF members.
Worse, Dawud Ibsa openly told Ethiopians yesterday in an interview with Walta television that the faction of OLF he leads did not return to Ethiopia for a “peaceful struggle” and that it will not disarm.
That makes it clear as to what the intent of OLF is and the Ethiopian government should stop treating OLF as a spoiled child at the expense of Ethiopia and Ethiopians. It is in fact disgusting that the government seem to be taking Ethiopians for granted as it is pursuing excessive appeasement policy towards OLF. The problem is that the policy is not even moderating OLF leaders. OLF is further radicalizing; the leader’s statement he gave to Walta is a clear testimony in addition to the ethnic based violence linked to OLF.
The ruling coalition has resolved to enforce rule of law and work for Ethiopian unity during its 11th congress which concluded two days ago. OLF is a threat both to the rule of law and the unity of Ethiopia. So the ruling party must stick to its decision and act decisively on the threat that OLF is posing on Ethiopians before this hate monger organization is dragging the country to a total chaos.
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