Ethiopia: OLA rebel fighters surrender in large numbers

Local media in Ethiopia’s Oromia region reported recently surrendered fighters of the OLA.
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Ethiopian security forces say they made significant progress against the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) insurgency in recent months, with many rebels surrendering and a key insurgent base in West Wellega captured.

A spokesperson for the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) announced that 110 insurgents surrendered this week following a successful operation in Horo Gudru, a known OLA stronghold. Regional officials in West Wollega claim over a thousand OLA fighters have been killed in clashes during the past three months.

Last week, Ethiopian media reported the capture of a critical rebel hideout deep within a forest, inaccessible by road. Authorities say the location contained medical facilities used by rebels and a cache of weapons, including grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, and machine guns. The group also maintained excavator equipment, “used in ramshackle gold mining operation” that the military say is one of its sources of income.

Following recent military operations, officials say there is a return to normalcy in eastern Wollega, with schools and government services resuming operations. Roads are now operational in most areas of the region and the airport is now opened back up.

While Ethiopian officials claim no organized OLA resistance remains, they warn that some insurgents have splintered into smaller units of criminal gangs, posing a threat of highway robberies, and keeping civilians on edge. Authorities acknowledge the need for continued “mop-up” operations and public cooperation to fully address security concerns.

Speaking to local news, Gadisa Dero, a senior military commander stated, “over one thousand suspected informants living in East Welega, including those from within the ruling party have been arrested and remain in detention”. 

People here remain cautious however. Previous reports of victories against the OLA that were not sustained and expanded upon are a reminder not to be overly optimistic. Many residents desire long-term guarantees of safety and freedom of movement. A local speaking to Abren said, “rehabilitating the recently surrendered gunmen back to normal life is very important, but there will be those that will never turn themselves in for fear of being persecuted”, he worries, “they will choose a life of crime instead”.

The OLA is a splinter rebel group that spun off the much older Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) in 2018-2019 over disagreement on how to pursue the “political aims and aspirations of the Oromo”. It has committed countless atrocities in its quest to overthrow the government. In pursuing the insurgents, government securities services have also been accused of using harsh tactics, harming civilians in the process, and fueling a cycle of recrimination. The OLA and the Government failed to reach a peace agreement on two occasions.

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