A delegation of the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF), breakaway group from the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), including the party’s chairman, Leenco Lata, and his deputy, Dima Nagawo (PhD), has taken a momentous step in the middle of this week by coming back home after 25 years of political life in exile, to discuss the terms of their reentry into local political scene and on the ways their party can contribute to the democratization of the nation.
The visit by the ODF delegation is a follow-up meeting after a high-level delegation of the government visited ODF abroad, inviting them to come to the country and discuss how party members can politically participate in the country.
In a statement he gave after arriving in Addis Ababa, Dima noted the intention of his party to play a role in widening the political space in the country which “for the past 27 years has been dominated by one party”.
Currently, there are no opposition political parties or independent representatives in the Ethiopian parliamentary system other than the ruling party.
“We are happy that the recent discussions with the government delegation abroad has been very successful,” Dima said.
On his part, Leenco stated that the discussion abroad was on the manner of their return to the country and the real political issues are set to be raised in the discussions to follow in Addis Ababa.
“There were issues we needed to address to reach here. We will discuss wider political issues. We will look into the change happening, what its advantages and challenges are and we will also identify where we can contribute our part. We spent much of our time abroad and many of our supporters live in foreign countries. Hence, we can be a bridge between here and there,” Leencho said.
According to Leenco, he has been trying to meet and discuss with the government of Ethiopia for the past six years, during which time the government was not ready to accommodate such ideas. “But now, we have come to peacefully contribute to the country’s democratization recognizing the federal system of government,” he further said.
The recognition to the federal system of the country was a point of departure for ODF, when it decided to from OLF.
ODF was the first party to give a statement following the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization’s (OPDO) expression of willingness to work with opposition parties both inside and outside of the country.
“While commending and applauding OPDO for the bold move, we want to take this opportunity to express our willingness and readiness to work with it not only to realize the aspirations of the Oromo people but also to make Ethiopia’s federation genuinely democratic and multi-national, for which we have been advocating since the founding of our organization,” said the statement.
Although the details of the discussion have not yet been disclosed, members of the ODF delegation were reported to have met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and agreed to work towards a single goal.
Fetsum Arega, Chief of Staff at the Office of the Prime Minister, tweeted that, “PM Abiy Ahmed met today with the leadership of ODF. ODF leaders agreed to participate in Ethiopia’s political discourse, peacefully. Both parties agreed to work together with a singular focus on fostering Ethiopia’s national unity and deepening our democratic process.”