(OLF-OLA Press Release)
Yesterday, on the 17th of February 2023, the president of the regional state of Oromia made a call for reconciliation in the Oromia region while addressing the regional state council. The Oromo Liberation Front – Oromo Liberation Army (OLF-OLA) has been consistent to a fault in expressing its readiness for a negotiated settlement of the war on Oromia from the get-go— most recently as part of our Brief Political Manifesto. The OLA maintains that a lasting and sustainable solution to Ethiopia’s complex political troubles can result only 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.
However, today’s call for peace lacks the requisite clarity and nuance to be too optimistic about the overtures of an imminent peace process in Oromia. The Ethiopian government has made several such calls for peace before, formally and informally. Today’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.
We want to draw attention to the following key aspects that any peace process ought to clarify from the beginning:
The Ethiopian government has hitherto down-played the gravity of the conflict in Oromia by relegating its resolution to track-II local mediations. The OLF-OLA has unequivocally rejected this mechanism because, inter alia:
In today’s polarized political landscape, finding a neutral mediator within the country is a far cry from a viable possibility. Even if, by a stoke 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.
To be effective the process of mediation should be formalized and observed by neutral third states. Anything less will be a repeat of the failed ‘Asmara Agreement’ between the OLF and the Ethiopian government.
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.
2. 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. 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.
3. Technically, today’s call for peace did not address the OLA. The regional president still refers to a phantom armed group called “OLF-Shane.” Whilst 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, it should, therefore, agree to follow proper national and international mechanisms. The peace process hitherto pursued by the government is not worthy of the name!
OLF-OLA High Command February 18, 2023