IGAD, US, Norway spearhead mediation
The federal government of Ethiopia and the armed forces of self-declared Oromo Liberation Front (OLF-Shane) have resumed peace talks in Tanzania. However, despite the ongoing negotiations, a much-needed ceasefire remains elusive, as clashes persist in the western, southern, and central parts of the Oromia regional state.
Sources reveal that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), along with the United States and Norway, are among the third-party facilitators in these peace talks.
“The negotiation is ongoing in Tanzania. IGAD is participating as a mediator. Norway and USA are also present. We are not sure for how long the negotiation is going to take,” an official of IGAD with knowledge with the issue, told The Reporter.
Both sides however, have refrained from making official statements regarding the resumption of negotiations.
“I do not know why they are not making it official,” the IGAD official said.
Reports indicate that the second round of talks commenced in Tanzania after Ethiopian government representatives and OLF-Shane engaged in dialogues prior to their arrival in Dar es Salaam.
The resumption of negotiations, according to inside sources, follows optimistic dialogues.
Sources also confirmed that military commanders from both sides are participating in the negotiations. Notably, top leaders of OLF-Shane reportedly flew from military fields in Oromia to Tanzania to attend the talks.
The first round of negotiations, which took place behind closed doors in Zanzibar back in April 2023, ended without reaching an agreement after 10 days of discussions. OLF-Shane had demanded the formation of a transitional government in Oromia and power sharing, but the federal government dismissed these demands.
Conversely, the government representatives requested the rebel group to disarm.
During the initial negotiations, OLF-Shane was represented by its officials based abroad, who reportedly lacked the authority to make decisions, sources say. However, this time, the group is represented by its commanders, leading observers to believe that this round of negotiations may yield concrete agreements.
Analysts emphasize that at the very least, a ceasefire and the establishment of a venue for humanitarian assistance should be prioritized.
Sources say that the situation in western and southern Oromia has reached a breaking point, with widespread displacement, hunger, and a social crisis. Continuous confrontations between the rebel group, federal forces, and regional forces have been plaguing these regions.
OLF, formerly based in Eritrea during the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) regime, returned to Addis Ababa in September 2018 following the change in Ethiopian leadership. However, the armed wing of the party continued its armed struggle, rebranding itself as the ‘Oromo Liberation Front’ and subsequently designated as a terrorist group by the Parliament, earning the name ‘OLF-Shane.’
The group reportedly controls a significant portion of rural Oromia, undermining the governance structure of the ruling Prosperity Party. These ongoing clashes between government forces and OLF-Shane have resulted in a military deadlock in the region.
Aside from IGAD, the US, Norway, Kenya, and Sweden are also exerting pressure on both sides to achieve a peaceful political resolution for the conflict-ravaged Oromia.
If the current negotiations in Tanzania prove successful, the rebel group may potentially become part of Ethiopia’s National Dialogue initiative, with only 16 months remaining until the initiative’s three-year term expires.