Wednesday, February 28, 2024

To end Oromia misery, restart Talks, bury hatchet for good

The conflict in Oromia has raged for years with no end in sight, bringing only suffering and hardship to the Ethiopian people. The latest round of peace talks between the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army ended without agreement, and fighting has now resumed across Oromia. This renewed violence dashes hopes of a peaceful resolution and prolongs the immense human cost of this crisis.

As the bullets fly once more, it is civilians who suffer most – unable to farm their lands, caught in the crossfire, and witnessing the destruction of their communities. The people of Oromia deserve so much better. They deserve the opportunity to live in peace, to pursue opportunities, and to build prosperous communities. But for too long, politicians on all sides have chosen violence and extremism over dialogue and compromise. The OLA justify their insurgency by pointing to the marginalization and discrimination that Oromos have historically faced. These grievances here that deserve to be heard.

But taking up arms, attacking civilians and destabilizing the region will only breed more injustice. Violence begets violence and hardens positions on both sides. For its part, the Ethiopian government must do more to address the root causes of unrest in Oromia. Harsh crackdowns and military operations against the OLA that risk civilian lives will not resolve this conflict – they may only make matters worse.

Instead, the government must pursue a path of dialogue, reconciliation and political reform that gives all Ethiopians a stake in the country’s future. Most importantly, both sides must return to the negotiating table and this time show the political will to make real compromises for peace. Neither side will achieve all its objectives through force. Only through diplomacy and dialogue, conducted in good faith, can a sustainable agreement be reached.

The economic costs of the conflict are unsustainable. Fighting is disrupting agricultural production, deterring investment and hindering economic growth – at a time when Ethiopia’s economy is already under strain. A lasting peace is needed for economic revival. There is an opportunity cost to continued fighting. Time and resources spent on violence cannot be spent on development and building a more just society. Both sides must reflect on what could be achieved if this destructive cycle ends.

The Ethiopian people, especially those in Oromia, have borne the brunt of this conflict for too long. They deserve peace and stability that can only come through a negotiated settlement between the OLA and government. This underscores the need for both sides to return to the negotiating table and redouble their efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution.

The international community has a role to play.

Neighboring countries and allies can encourage dialogue, facilitate negotiations, and pressure both sides to endorse a comprehensive ceasefire. The United Nations and African Union should also support any peace process.

The AU, in particular, must step up their efforts to help bring about a peaceful resolution through negotiation and compromise. The Ethiopian government should also draw on the success of the AU-led talks that ended the conflict in Tigray and apply a similar framework to resolving the crisis in Oromia.

Just as the AU helped facilitate an end to the fighting in Tigray, it must now work to stop the senseless violence raging in other parts of Ethiopia like Oromia. No single region or ethnic group should be left behind. If the AU truly hopes to achieve its goal of silencing “the gun” across Africa, it cannot turn a deaf ear to devastating conflicts like the one in Oromia.

All peace-loving Ethiopians call on the government, the OLA and the international community to redouble all stakeholders, including the AU, efforts towards a peaceful settlement that brings justice, stability and prosperity to this long-suffering region

But all stakeholders must understand the unique context and history of the Oromia region to craft a sustainable solution. A “one size fits all” approach will not work. Any peace agreement must have robust implementation and follow-through mechanisms to ensure its terms are upheld and objectives achieved. This will require oversight, accountability and dispute resolution processes.

Ultimately, however, the choice for peace lies with Ethiopians themselves. Ethiopians must realize that violence will only breed more violence, while peace offers the prospect of a brighter future for all Ethiopians. What the people of Oromia desire most is stability, opportunity and the chance for their children to thrive – aspirations that violence cannot fulfill.

The best chance for justice, unity and progress in Ethiopia rests on pursuing peace through patience, compromise and a shared vision for a more hopeful tomorrow. The people of Oromia have suffered enough. Now is the time for politicians on all sides to choose peace over violence and lives over hostility. The Ethiopian people deserve nothing less.


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