Oromo Liberation Front has to choose peaceful struggle or violence, says Abiy

In what is said to be one of his stern statement since he took over office, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned Oromo Liberation Front leader that it can not combine peaceful and legal political activity with armed struggle

Oromo Liberation Front _ Ethiopia
Oromo Liberation Front leader, Dawud Ibsa during the meeting with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed last week. Photo : screenshot from EBC video

May 2, 2020

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been criticized for being too soft on the radical Oromo nationalist groups like Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). But this week, he warned the leader that they must choose between a peaceful struggle or an armed struggle one.

He spoke about it this week when he met with opposition party leaders to discuss how to go about organizing the next general election after the scheduled one was canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

While recognizing the COVID 19 had made the election difficult, OLF leader, Dawud Ibsa, did not hide how he felt about the cancelation:  “With all its shortcomings, we were hoping that the election would bring something, But COVID [19] happened,” he said while framing his question to the Prime Minister.

Yet, he emphasized that the government needs to avoid using “loophole” to the situation. Moreover, he criticized Abiy Ahmed’s government for what he called “an ongoing violation of human rights during the COVID 19 state of emergency. Not only in Oromia but also outside of it,” he told PM Abiy Ahmed.

He framed his question in a way to claim that Abiy Ahmed’s government is deliberately violating human rights violations by exploiting the state of emergency.”

In his response, Abiy first tried to explain how “complicated” it is to enforce preventive measures against COVID 19. A little later, he demanded specificity: “if there are any specific issues that your members are experiencing, we can discuss it.” 

He then strongly warned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a radical ethnic nationalist party, to end playing double games in politics. “You can not stand on the peaceful and legal struggle and armed activity.”

He went further to condemn what he called fifty years of intrigue and conspiracy politics in Ethiopia. Hinting that there is a risk of military aggression against Ethiopia which he unspecified, he condemned some political forces for working with enemies of Ethiopia. He boldly called them “banda” – a term coined to describe those who stood on the side of fascist Italy when Ethiopia was invaded in the 1930s.

Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) as an armed movement was based in Eritrea for decades and returned to Ethiopia in September 2018 after Abiy Ahmed’s government invited all opposition groups to return home and operate in a peaceful politics.

Soon after returning to the country, OLF leadership flouted the government’s demand to disarm and operate peacefully until about mid-2019.  There are still armed activities in the college area of Western Ethiopia but OLF claims that it has nothing to do with the armed group in the region.

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