In the clearest indication of change of tone to date, the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) and the Oromia regional government are underscoring the importance of stopping the insurgency being prosecuted by the self-described Oromo Liberation Front-Oromo Liberation Army (OLF-OLA) or what the government calls OLF-Shene in the Oromia region through peaceful means. In the classic mold of the carrot-and-stick approach, they have both called on the armed group to lay down its arms and come to reconciliation while warning that they would ramp up the “law enforcement measures” currently targeting it if it does not give up violence to accomplish its political objectives. Emphasizing the imperative to end the suffering of innocent civilians who have borne the brunt of the insurgency and put Oromia back on the path to peace and prosperity, they expressed their commitment to resolve the underlying causes that have triggered the horrendous violence ravaging Oromia. However, they have not tabled any tangible roadmap that will guide the reconciliation process.
Ethiopia has rarely enjoyed a continuous stretch of peace and stability throughout its history. From wars of aggression by expansionists and would-be colonizers to civil wars, its people have had to endure destructive conflicts that shattered their livelihood. Nevertheless, seldom has the country witnessed the frequency and viciousness of the violence that has been racking it since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came to office in April 2018. During his nearly five years tenure hundreds of thousands of citizens have died in the war in the northern part of the nation as well as in hundreds of senseless intercommunal conflicts and targeted attacks. On top of that millions were uprooted from their homes and psychologically devastated. Unfortunately, there has been no end in sight to the brutalities which have made life a nightmare for the affected individuals and communities. The inability of the federal government and the concerned regional administrations to significantly degrade the capability of the perpetrators of the heinous violence if not rout them altogether has understandably stoked doubt over the credibility of their frequent pledge to make Ethiopia a beacon of peace and stability.
The extending of an olive branch by the federal and Oromia governments is a step in the right direction. Coupled with the publication in late January of a brief political manifesto by the OLF-Shene/OLF-OLA in which it affirmed its commitment to a negotiated peace that would lead to the cessation of its armed struggle bodes well for the security of Oromia and Ethiopia as a whole. Without naming any there are a host of confidence and security building measures that all sides can take to help the reconciliation get off to a good start. It would be premature to proclaim that the recent overtures of peace are certain to bring the horrific chapter of insecurity bedeviling Oromia to a close any time soon. Nonetheless, it’s of paramount importance to get the peacemaking process underway within the shortest possible time in order to alleviate the long suffering of defenseless compatriots.
Ethiopians have been breathing a sigh of relief following the truce that ended the deadly the two-year civil war in northern Ethiopia in November 2022. Sadly, a considerable proportion of the population continues to live under a cycle of violence that they desperately want to be broken. The primary obligation of protecting the lives and security of these sections of the society rests on the government. In this regard it is incumbent on it to see to it that state security and law enforcement agencies carry out the tasks entrusted to them within the confines of domestic laws and international agreements Ethiopia is a party to. No one should lose sight of the fact that the government alone cannot do an effective job of guaranteeing the safety of citizens however committed it may be. All of us who feel we have a stake in shaping the fate of our nation must also contribute our part in guaranteeing our collective security.
Ethiopian has had more than its share of wars and conflicts. Recently though the tectonic shifts that have been taking in the political sphere have led to a series of crises that have proven difficult to manage. The problem has been compounded by the set of deep structural challenges that has been confronting the country has for decades. The strategy the federal and regional governments have adopted to defeat insurgents like OLF-Shene/OLF-OLA, namely the use of force, has not bore fruit. Although the government is duty-bound to undertake law enforcement operations with a view to uphold law and order, the failure of the strategy it has pursued thus far calls for a pivot towards the settlement of political differences through negotiation and dialogue. The affirmation by both sides that the door to peace remains open should be cautiously welcomed. This said, they must first take measures demonstrating that they stand genuinely ready to give peace a chance.