On Tuesday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced his government’s attempts to engage in peace talks with the outlawed Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an active rebel group in the conflict-ridden Oromia region. The announcement comes as the administration seeks to replicate the successful peace process in the northern Tigray region, which concluded with a signed agreement in November.
Prime Minister Abiy emphasized the government’s strong interest in peacefully resolving the conflict with the OLA, stating, “The government has a high level of interest to resolve this conflict in peaceful terms. Not only interest, but also a committee entrusted with the task of leading the peace process has been set up.” Abiy also called on Ethiopians to support these efforts, adding, “More than 10 attempts at contact were made with the OLA. The problem so far is that there is no centralized group, so every unit has different ideas and positions… the committee is leading the talks, and we will see the result together.”
In contrast, Odaa Tarbii, the spokesperson for the OLA, contested Abiy’s claims in a recent response: “The statements made by Abiy Ahmed are untimely and inconsistent with reality. The 10 attempts he referred to were not genuine attempts to contact the OLA leadership. Instead, the regime deployed various committees of local mediators to contact individual OLA officers to try to convince them to surrender.” The OLA maintained that these actions constitute a destabilization campaign that could jeopardize prospects for peace.
The OLA reiterated its commitment to dialogue, emphasizing the need for neutral international third-party mediation: “We have consistently maintained our readiness for dialogue and have made it clear that an international third-party mediator will be required to ensure the success of any possible peace agreement.” Despite the Prime Minister Abiy’s statements, the OLA indicated that there were positive signs that peace talks involving appropriate international mediation might occur. The OLA further urged the Ethiopian government to refrain from endangering the path to peace.