Ethiopia-OLA talks in Tanzania may rekindle again

Conflict Western Oromia
Conflict zones in Western Oromia, areas of Wellega has been ground zero for the OLAs insurgency. Source: Ethiopia Peace Observatory
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As renewed clashes between the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and the Ethiopian government continue, there are indications that a third round of negotiations could be underway. The previous rounds, held in Tanzania, failed in May and November 2023 respectively,

Despite key disagreements in previous talks, both the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) and the OLA have demonstrated a willingness to engage in dialogue. It was feared that failure to agree in previous rounds may deter both parties from considering the prospect of renewed negotiations. However, given news of rebels surrendering in larger numbers may put pressure on leader to cut a face-saving deal.

There is reason to believe talks might be imminent. Commanders of the OLA, including the cryptic Jal Mero did not return to Ethiopia, remaining behind in Tanzania. They also face increased pressured to negotiate. While they remained separated from their fighters, active combat has been taking place, including recent deadly attack on civilians in which dozens of Orthodox and Evangelical Christians were killed. The regional government authorities accuse the OLA for carrying out these attacks.

The arrival of Ethiopia’s army chief, Brehanu Jula’s in Dar es Salaam yesterday was said to be a working visit, but it would not be surprising if Jula is there to partake in negotiations as well.

Ethiopia’s Army Chief Brehanu Jula arriving in Dar es Salam, Tanzania on Wednesday

The unresolved issues, including the OLA’s desire to be delisted terrorist entities list, the call for a transitional government in the Oromo region, and the refusal to commit to disarmament, continues to be central to the discussions. Because these were recurring demands unequivocally rejected by the government, the OLA may want to curtail its expectation.  

A third round of talks will likely feature international mediators from Norway and U.S. Ambassador Mike Hammer. The continued engagement of these diplomats suggests a commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to the protracted conflict that has gripped parts of Ethiopia’s Oromo region for the past five years.

Given the complex nature of the conflict, marked by external influences, and shifting dynamics, the resumption of negotiations would be a crucial step toward in addressing the multifaceted security challenges faced by Ethiopia. In recent months the country’s Amhara region has emerged as the epicenter of instability. Authorities will no doubt be under pressure to subdue this rebellion quickly and begin peace talks there as well.

While the specific details of ongoing talks have not been made public, continued willingness from both the Ethiopian government and the OLA to engage in dialogue presents a glimmer of hope for a lasting peace. The presence of diplomats from the international community underscores the importance of sustained efforts to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable agreement in the interest of peace and stability in the region.

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