Ethiopia: Government and OLA insurgents fail to reach peace agreement

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Efforts to resolve the ongoing conflict in parts of the Oromia region have reached an impasse as peace talks between the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) concluded without an agreement. The talks, spanning two rounds, were conducted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with the primary goal of quelling violence and restoring stability in the region.

The GoE’s official statement said, ‘its commitment to halting hostilities and to mitigate the extensive harm caused by the conflict based on respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and unity of Ethiopia, along with adherence to constitutional norms was obstructed by the OLA’.

According to Ambassador Redwan Hussain, ‘despite these efforts, the talks concluded without an agreement, citing the intransigence of the OLA as the primary obstacle’. Referring to the OLA as a terrorist group, the Amharic version of the GoE’s statement further added by stating, “The obstructive approach by the rebel group and unrealistic demands were identified as key reasons for the lack of progress”. The GoE insinuated the group as beholden to diaspora-based groups and even foreign governments.

The OLA said, “True to form, the Ethiopian government was only interested in co-optation of the leadership of the OLA rather than beginning to address the fundamental problems that underlie the country’s seemingly insurmountable security and political challenges”. As in past engagements, the OLA sought a transitional regional government, a demand the GoE has repeatedly rejected on constitutional grounds.

It was hoped OLA rebel leaders would moderate their demands with a more realistic approach during these renewed talks, particularly in light of the the group’s weakened position. Assessment that it was influenced away from peace by its diaspora support base gives credence to allegations of foreign capture. As things stand, it is difficult to foresee a near future in which the rebels will muster what is needed to negotiate from a position of strength.

The peace talks highlight the intricate challenges involved in resolving the conflict in parts of the Oromo region besieged by guerrilla fighting since 2019. The complexities of the situation may necessitate continued dialogue and efforts to address underlying issues. Nonetheless, given the repeated failures to negotiate a peace deal, the GoE may be more inclined to lean towards a military solutions.

Kenyan and Norwegian diplomats involved as mediators remain unknown to the public, and have thus far refrained from making a statement.

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