Addis Abeba – The resumption of the second round peace talks between the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) early last month brought in a collective sigh of relief not just in the restive Oromia region, but across the country with many expecting for a positive outcome that will see a negotiated settlement to end a war that is ravaging lives and livelihoods with little to no attention from the international community.
The people of Oromia and millions on both sides of the warring parties were reassured by the mere fact that the talks brought together the top-most military leaders from both sides face-to-face for the first time in the presence of credible third parties as mediators.
But to the dismay of millions, the talks that took place in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam collapsed after two weeks; what was more unsettling was the final statement from both sides, which left no sign of willingness to continue the engagement to end a war that continued causing harrowing human rights violations ever since it started five years ago.
Unless drastic measures are taken, the war in Oromia looks set at a deadlock for the unforeseeable future, as neither the government nor the OLA are poised to attain a conclusive military defeat over one another.”
The two sides have traded accusations against one another. The government blamed OLA for “intransigence” and putting forth “unrealistic demands,” whereas OLA accused the government for being “only interested in co-optation” of its leadership as opposed to addressing the key substantive issues.
Be that as it may, the flurry of government propaganda against the OLA while the talks were ongoing that cast a shadow of doubt about its intent and commitment gave way to an uptick of inflammatory rhetoric soon after the talks collapsed. It was also accompanied by an escalation of militarized hostility and subsequent harm on civilian lives and destruction of properties.
At least 100 civilians were killed in Arsi, Horro Guduru, West Wollega and Buno Bedele zones of the Oromia region within a span of two weeks since the talks ended. Accusations fly on both sides.
This is a vivid testament that a protracted war only results in furthering the suffering of civilians and exacerbating the already daunting socio-economic crisis that has gripped the country. Unless drastic measures are taken, the war in Oromia looks set at a deadlock for the unforeseeable future, as neither the government nor the OLA are poised to attain a conclusive military defeat over one another.
Not finding a negotiated settlement to the war in Oromia is also having a reverberating effect in extending the ongoing conflict in the Amhara region between government forces and the local Fano militia.”
The failure by both sides to realize this unmistakable reality and to make the necessary concessions through negotiations is not only an act of indifference to the Oromo people’s ordeals, and the overwhelming desire for peace to prevail, but also poses a significant risk to undermine Ethiopia’s national security. In a country that is being ravaged by natural disasters, disease outbreaks and economic hardships as a result of both, peaceful settlement of man made wars is not a matter of choice, but of necessity.
Not finding a negotiated settlement to the war in Oromia is also having a reverberating effect in extending the ongoing conflict in the Amhara region between government forces and the local Fano militia. In just eight months alone, the militarized conflict has already caused unspeakable devastation to civilians in the region with no end in sight.
Ever since the conflict in Amhara region erupted in April this year, and despite the government’s repeated claim in its ability to ascertain control over monopoly of violence, and claims to have peace and order restored in most parts of the region, the Fano militia continue to pose a significant military challenge against government forces from their remote hideouts.
In an attempt to disarm the group, government forces appear to have resorted to the use of heavy artillery shelling and drone strikes, resulting in the tragic losses of civilian lives and destruction of vital infrastructures in a region that is already reeling from another war just over a year ago. The recent targeting of an ambulance carrying crucial medical supplies in Delanta district of South Wollo zone by a drone strike, killing five civilians and reducing the vehicle to scattered debris, is indisputable evidence of this.
In November, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed that drone strikes by government forces in the Amhara region including on a school and a bus station resulted in the deaths of at least 20 civilians, sounding the alarm about gross human rights abuses in the context of conflict.
What’s less talked about is the fact that the fighting has resulted in road closures, severely disrupting the timely delivery of vital food aid and fertilizers to communities devastated by the conflict, drought and disease outbreak. That is not it. In early October, the Amhara Education Bureau released a report stating that around 3.9 million primary and secondary students, out of the total six million eligible children, are unable to pursue their education this academic year mainly due to the ongoing conflict.
…the lasting impacts of these military conflicts in Oromia and Amhara regions are above and beyond the suffering of civilians; they pose a direct threat to the country’s national security interests.”
Regardless of calls for peaceful resolution of this conflict by local and international actors, including the opposition National Movement of Amhara (NaMA) and the US government, there is no sign that shows the readiness on both sides for a negotiated settlement.
If the recent hearing by the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee titled “Ethiopia: Promise or Perils of the U.S. Policy”, and the remarks made at the hearing are anything to go by, the lasting impacts of these military conflicts in Oromia and Amhara regions are above and beyond the suffering of civilians; they pose a direct threat to the country’s national security interests.
The US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer, who was involved in the talks between the Ethiopian government and OLA, has offered to mediate between the government and Fano if the opportunities were to avail themselves. The diplomat also reiterated his country’s continued commitment to the peaceful resolution of the war in Oromia. It is time all sides seize on this opportunity to negotiate and resolve the conflicts without further delay.
Silence the guns now, give the people of Ethiopia the respite they deserve! AS