by Teshome Borago
Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) leadership has condemned the recent “violence” by splinter group known as OLA-Shene, according to Ethiopian media Awasa Guardian (AG).
Addis Ababa based OLF executive committee leader Ararso Bikila accused the rebel faction of “colluding with Oromo killer TPLF,” the AG report said. The group is in reference to a diaspora based OLA faction spokesman Odaa Tarbii confirming its military alliance with the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).
Responding to OLA-Shene forming alliance with TPLF, OLF VP Kajela Merdasa said his organization “rejects violence to bring change in Oromia.” This development has reportedly angered most Oromos in Ethiopia, particularly Oromos of Jimma and Shewa, which is the hometown of late Oromo singer Hachalu Hundesa. Many Oromos say Hachalu was assassinated because he publicly criticized OLA-Shene and other Oromos who collaborated with TPLF, calling them “traitors.”
“For the first time in history, OLA is waging war on Oromo people,” OLF’s Ararso Bikila reportedly announced, according to Awasa Guardian. There have been several reports of OLA-Shene assassinating Oromo civilian authorities through out 2020. These killing of Oromos by Shene rebels was also condemned by notable former OLF activist and Oromo human rights defender Nagessa Dube, who has been documenting the crimes. https://www.ethiopia-insight.com/2020/08/03/guji-oromo-need-freedom-from-liberators/ Some of the killings attributed to OLA-Shene were also committed by Aba-Torbe (AT), a clandestine gang of assassins allied to Shene.
Another Oromo activist Birhanu Lenjiso condemned rebels engaged in violence in Oromia, while former OLF spokesman & current senior advisor to PM Abiy Ahmed Lencho Bati suggested Oromo demands are being addressed by his government.
In addition to the murder of Oromos, the Shene rebels are known for atrocities against ethnic minorities living in Oromia, particularly the Amhara and Amharic speaking southerners in recent years. Last week, the independently-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it is investigating the latest massacre of hundreds of Amharas and other minorities in Western Oromia in August, where OLA has been accused of atrocities by witnesses and survivors.
OLF is currently registered legally as opposition party in Ethiopia after 2018 reforms by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. However the organization has historically been marred by internal divisions. Since 2019, it has split into two camps between Dawud Ibsa (OLF-Chairman) and the Ararso-led executive committee (OLF-Committee). The NEBE attempted to unite the two branches of OLF that have offices in Addis Ababa, but the OLF-Committee accused OLF-Chairman of hurting the organization’s transition to nonviolent struggle, by not publicly condemning violence in Wolega & Guji after OLF affiliated Shene militants refused to abide by the disarmament agreement. (Out of the three previously banned major armed groups who were given Amnesty by Abiy Ahmed in 2018, the Dr. Berhanu Nega led Patriotic Ginbot 7 (PG7) and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) have both laid down their arms to participate in elections, while only the Shene faction of OLF has refused disarmament and demobilization.)
During the last two decades, OLF was previously split into at least four more branches: mostly due to religious and regionalism allegiances amongst members as well as tactical and ideological differences. Despite repeated denials of internal division, some OLF factions went as far as filing a lawsuit at US courts in the State of Minnesota where thousands of diaspora Oromos who fund the rebellion and atrocities by OLF/OLA reside. After the Asmara based OLF itself split in half, with a handful of its leaders leaving Eritrea, their Diaspora supporters began litigation in Minnesota, accusing a fourth OLF faction of violating the “Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act” by using the OLF name, logo and flag for fundraising. http://oromoaffairs.blogspot.com/2007/07/olf-factions-duke-it-out-in-minnesota.html?m=1
After years of lawsuits, division and dormancy, popular Oromo activists like Jawar Mohammed declared OLF as defunct, ineffective organization; and began advocating for a new method that combines nonviolent struggle with nativist undertones (which increasingly transformed into xenophobic, grassroots mob violence recently.) Since 2014, Jawar-led Oromo protests often operated parallel to Fincila Diddaa Garbummaa (FDG), an OLF-promoted loose movement of “Revolt against subjugation” with no central leadership on the ground. The ensuing Oromo protests, together with Amhara protests, put political and economic pressure on the TPLF-dominated EPRDF government, until the Oromo (OPDO) and Amhara (ANDM) junior branches of EPRDF covertly colluded to sideline TPLF peacefully and launch the 2018 reform, as ethnic Oromo Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rose to power.
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