Ethiopia Signs Deal With Oromo Rebels

In an effort to improve security and diplomatic relations, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been attempting to reconcile with Ethiopian dissidents overseas. As part of these efforts, an offer of reconciliation was extended to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which had been added to Ethiopia’s list of banned terrorist groups in 2008. An agreement was signed on Tuesday, August 7 between the OLF and the Ethiopian government to end hostilities.

The terms of the agreement include stipulations that the OLF practise all political activities in a peaceful manner and that the Ethiopian government end hostilities with OLF leader Dawud Ibsa who had been previously exiled to the Eritrean capital, Asmara. A joint committee will be formed to ensure the agreement’s implementation.

The signing of the agreement is in the wake of certain significant events regarding the OLF which occurred in July – the removal of OLF from Ethiopia’s list of banned terrorist groups and OLF’s subsequent declaration of ceasefire in Ethiopia.

The signing of the agreement in Asmara is also significant as it testifies to the improving relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In early July, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed the historic Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship agreement, ending the state of war which existed between the two neighbouring countries. Eritrea previously provided support to the OLF and other anti-Ethiopia rebel groups. However, with the improving relations between the two countries, Eritrea’s support to the OLF has waned. It is speculated that decreased support from Eritrea might have played a role in motivating OLF’s interest in the reconciliation agreement with Ethiopia

The OLF was formed in 1973 to provide armed opposition to colonial rule and oppression of people in Ethiopia’s Oromo region. The Oromo people are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, making up 35-40% of the population. The OLF’s mission included promoting separation of Oromo from Ethiopia and self-determination of Oromo people whom the group believed were being denied basic rights. The exact number of casualties as a result of OLF’s activities is unknown but OLF was known for targeting military personnel. In addition, OLF was believed to be involved in some civilian attacks in Ethiopia.

The OLF is the first dissident group which has signed a reconciliation agreement with the Ethiopian government. Further reconciliation efforts with other dissident groups are in progress.

Though the casualties of violence can never be reclaimed, it is hopeful to see Ethiopia making efforts to enter a more peaceful era.