Ethiopia, Oromo rebels week-long talks end without deal

Thursday May 04 2023
Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon protest

Members of the Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa on July 5, 2020. Talks between the Ethiopian federal government and the Oromo Liberation Army ended on May 3, 2023 without any major breakthrough. PHOTO | ANWAR AMRO | AFP


The first round of talks between the Ethiopian federal government and rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) ended Wednesday without any major breakthrough.

However, the two sides expressed commitment to continue engaging in dialogue to peacefully end the long-running conflict in the Oromia region.

The negotiations have been going on for nine days since Tuesday of last week in Tanzania's semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar.

"While the talks have been largely constructive, unfortunately, it was not possible to reach an agreement on some issues during this round of the talks" Ethiopia’s prime minister’s national security adviser Redwan Hussein tweeted.

abiy ahmed

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. PHOTO | AFP

"Both parties have acknowledged the need to continue these talks with a view to resolving the conflict permanently and peacefully," he added.


Read: Ethiopia says Oromiya rebels killed 50 people

Ethiopia committed

Redwan, who was in the government’s negotiating team, reaffirmed Addis Ababa's firm commitment to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in accordance with the constitution and within the framework of fundamental principles that have guided this far.

He extended gratitude to those who have facilitated and hosted the talks without mentioning them by names.

The talks were largely mediated by Norway and Kenya, according to rebel sources.

In a separate statement later Wednesday, OLA said the initial round of talks concluded with some progress, but no agreement was reached on key political issues.

The rebel group expressed its determination to find a political solution to the conflict.

"The OLF-OLA would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its commitment to the peaceful resolution of the conflict through an honourable political settlement," OLA's Spokesperson Odaa Tarbii said.


People ride in the back of a pick-up van in Addis Ababa in celebrations a day before the return of formerly banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to Ethiopia on September 14, 2018. PHOTO | AFP

OLA further expressed its gratitude to those who facilitated and hosted the talks.

Both parties did not state on which political issues they differ to agree on, nor did they disclose agendas they discussed on.

Read: Ethiopia faces challenge disarming militias

Meeting extended

The meetings were initially planned to end by the weekend but were extended by few more days.

According to sources close to the matter, Kenya and Norway played a leading mediation role in the first week-long negotiations.

It is not yet known where and when the next round of talks will take place.

Both parties were represented by a team of six delegates and mediators each.

Ethiopian government's negotiating team includes the country's Justice Minister Gedion Timotheos and the prime minister's national security adviser Redwan Hussein, both of whom were previously negotiating with Tigray forces.

It is to be recalled that Redwan on November 4, 2022 led the Ethiopian negotiating team that agreed on a permanent ceasefire with Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), with whom the nation's government had fought a two-year war from November 2020.

Read: Ethiopia region’s biggest military spender in 2022

OLA on its side is represented by their army commander's advisor Jiregna Gudetta, a historian Prof Muhammad Hassan, and Abdi Taha.

The OLA armed group has been fighting Ethiopia's government since the 1970s for self-determination of Oromia, the most populous and largest region in the Horn of Africa nation.

The rebels, who fight for the self determination of the Oromo people, largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, intensified their fighting in the last four years in a bid to topple Prime Minister Abiy's central government.

OLA was designated by Addis Ababa as a terrorist entity in May 2021.