In August 2018, Lemma Megersa, deputy chairman of what is now Oromo Democratic Party (ODP), and president of Oromia regional state, and Workeneh Gebeyehu, Foreign Affairs Minister and Executive Member of ODP, traveled to Asmara, Eritrea, to hold talks with Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). They were apparently representing the Federal government and Oromia regional government, by implication the party that governs the region, ODP.
As reported by borkena at the time, the two, both ethno-nationalist and sort of contending parties, agreed on two basic principles. OLF agreed to cessation of hostility with the government Ethiopia and to pursue its political objective through peaceful means from within Ethioia which means that it will no longer engage armed activities which was the case, at least theoretically, when it was operating from within Eritrea.
Not long after OLF leaders including the chairman, Dawud Ibsa, returned to Ethiopia sometime in mid September of this year, the party seem to have changed its minds as it asserted power challenging government authorities, refusing to disarm its combatants in Wollega in Western Ethiopia and Guji in Southern Ethiopia.
OLF’s armed activity caused security and humanitarian crisis in the parts of Wollega adjacent to Benishangul regional state, leaving hundreds dead and tens of thousands of people displaced. The radical ethno-nationalists rejected the idea to disarm on alleged grounds that there was on agreement, what so ever, regarding disarming fighters during the Asmara talk in August 2018.
Finally, the Federal government and Oromo Regional State made it clear that government has a responsibility to protect the security of citizens and will have to disarm OLF if OLF is not willing to do so.
However, OLF continued to defy government power and there has been reported fighting since the last week of October between government forces and OLF militia – a development regional authorities denied. They described the development only as an activity to disarm OLF combatants and that everything was under control.
Today, Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported that ODP and OLF leaders reached agreement to resolve their difference through peaceful means which suggests that there was indeed a fighting between the two parties.
Lemma Megersa and Dawud Ibsa held a joint presser regarding the agreement today according to a report by ENA. Dawud Ibsa expressed Oromo Liberation Front’s readiness to work in consultation with ODF and contribute to the development of the country. Dawud Ibsa reportedly went on to the extent of calling up on his party members and supporters including the clandestine youth organization Qeerroo to contribute to the implementation of the new agreement.
The agreement with OLF came barely two weeks after Lemma Megersa sent a stern warning against “groups operating the name of Oromo Liberation Front.”
Apart from the alleged agreement to resolve differences peacefully, it is not clear if OLF will be operating in the country just like all other opposition forces in the country or if it is continuing dictating government on alleged grounds of “popular support in Oromo region.”
In view of crime situation that members of OLF party have been involved and government’s pledge to maintain the rule of law, the seemingly preferential treatment towards OLF is likely to raise questions.
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