The Wollega conundrum
Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Head of Military Operations, Berhanu Jula (Gen.), told reporters yesterday that life is returning back to normal in West Wollega Zone of the Oromia Regional State after more than a month of complete breakdown of law and order and heavy fighting between armed groups and members of ENDF deployed in the area to restore peace and order.
According to Berhanu, roads leading to the affected areas are now open, while the members of the ENDF are working “to reinstate government structures which were dismantled by the armed groups and replaced by an administration of their own”.
He also noted that, in collaboration with the residents in the area, the defense forces have repossessed armaments taken from the security apparatus in area and the Zonal administration.
“We have started to reclaim illegal arms and apprehending armed groups who have racked havoc in West Oromia,” Berhanu said in response to questions from reporters inside the offices of the Ministry of Defense, located off Churchill Avenue.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, appearing before the House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) to present the six-month report of the Ministry of Defense with the Minister, Aisha Mohamed (Eng.), the deputy Chief of Staff gave assurances to lawmakers that the deteriorating security situation in West Oromia will be brought under the full control of the ENDF under his command in a couple of weeks.
Birhanu also told MPs that the dire security situation in Wollega is now calming down and that he is confident it will be stabilized in weeks’ time.
The federal and regional governments accuse the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) for the deadly conflict in West Oromia; while, so far, there is a lack of clarity as to the exact identity of these armed forces clashing with the government forces in Wollega.
Although several high-ranking OLF officials have indirectly alluded to the affiliation of the group to the party; but claimed that it was in fact provoked by the deployment of ENDF in Wollega, weeks ago. OLF statement two weeks ago also blames government forces deployment West Oromia in violation of an agreement and recently established common platform of parties in the region.
Accordingly, the major subject of discussed in the House was also the current security situation in the country and how the ENDF is handling it.
MPs grilled both the minister and Birhanu over the longstanding security crisis in western Oromia.
Responding to why the ENDF failed to protect residents’, who were allegedly killed by the armed forces in West Wollega; Aysha said that the killing of civilians occurred before the deployment of the ENDF to the region.
She also reaffirmed the long-standing principle of the army not to interfere in regional policing matters unless requested by the regional authorities. Nevertheless, she also assured MPs that the major security problems were resolved as of the previous week following the deployment of the ENDF to affected areas.
Describing the violence, Birhanu told the House that he has never seen such kinds of “atrocities and brutality” been committed in all his years in military service.
Though Birhanu did not directly refer to OLF other recognized party, he detailed incidents that looks to be implicating for OLF.
Nevertheless, he told MPs that since last week, the army has been controlling the area and the situation is getting better every day, and by the coming week, the stability of the areas will be fully restored.
"It will not take us more than two weeks to manage what is happening in West Oromia," Berhanu reiterated.