The theme of this editorial is a painful subject on which we have opined no less than a dozen times in the past five years. The cycle of violence that has been gripping different parts of Ethiopia is showing no sign of coming to an end any time soon. While the violence has affected practically all regional states of the country, the Oromia region particularly continues to witness the killing, maiming, abduction and displacement of defenseless people as well as the destruction of property across its different zones. With the winds of peace blowing in Ethiopia following the conclusion of a deal between the federal government and the Tigray People’s Revolutionary Front (TPLF) that ended the deadly two-year civil war in northern Ethiopia, the unending bout of violence which has been rocking Oromia is perhaps the single greatest security threat facing the country presently. The targeted attacks unfolding in the region is in one way or another work of Ethiopia’s historical enemies and their collaborators at home bent on destabilizing it for the sake of accomplishing their evil agendas. As usual it’s the innocent and vulnerable sections of society who are disproportionately victimized. Unless the deteriorating security lapse is addressed immediately, it is bound to wreak greater havoc.
The regularity with which gruesome attacks are occurring is mind-numbing to say the least. So is the growing indifference of the public to the atrocities on account of their frequency. Predictably, the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and the Oromia regional government have repeatedly vowed to crush the group reportedly behind most of the carnage—the self-described Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) which the Ethiopian government refers to as OLF-Shene and has been designated as a terrorist by Parliament—and restore law and order. Although both have launched operations aimed at wiping out OLF-Shene and claimed on several occasions that their efforts have borne fruit, the group has been able to widen the its area of operation since it launched its campaign of terror over four years ago. The apparent failure of the federal and Oromia governments to subdue the OLF-Shene has left the public wondering if they have the desire and will to quash the group.
It goes without saying that the obligation to enable the public to lead a life of peace and security primarily rests with the government. In this regard law enforcement organs play a vital role in ensuring that citizens are able to enjoy fully the inalienable rights enshrined under the constitution. Sadly, the local administrative and security organs in the areas suffering from frequent violence in the Oromia region have simply been incapable of living up to their duties in terms of affording protection to residents from attacks by the OLF-Shene and other criminal elements. Part of the reason for this tragedy is the fact that these organs have been infiltrated by OLF-Shene sympathizers that provide it with various forms of support. It’s therefore incumbent on the regional government to purge traitors from its rank if it is to succeed in guaranteeing the security citizens have been clamoring for.
Akin to any nation undergoing a political sea change, Ethiopia has been faced with a bevy of trying challenges that have exacted a heavy toll on its people. Needless to say, the government cannot overcome them on its own regardless of how dedicated it may be. The appalling carnages ravaging the Oromia region can only be stopped through the robust participation of all sections of society. This involves, among others, conveying in no uncertain terms their opposition to the likes of OLF-Shene and denying them the space they need to operate with impunity including by exposing criminals hiding among them. The collaboration of the government and the public is indispensable in assuring an end to the scourge of violence afflicting the Oromia region and beyond.
Ethiopians have had more than their fair share of the senseless violence that has been ongoing in Oromia. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the insecurity plaguing several zones of the region cannot be addressed solely through the law enforcement measurements the regional and federal governments have been pursuing thus far. As important as these steps may be to upholding law and order in Oromia, both administrations need to keep an open mind about the possibility of seeking a lasting peaceful solution via an inclusive political process in which all stakeholders are allowed to participate meaningfully. True, there can be no arguing that the perpetrators of unspeakable atrocities ought to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. However, just as the war in northern Ethiopia—a far deadlier conflict demonstrably harder to resolve—was brought to a peaceful end, so too must every effort be made to find a lasting win-win solution for all sides. As Prime Minister Abiy recently signaled, the door to a negotiated settlement must always remain open.