Members OLA fighters. Picture: OLA Website
By Abdi Biyenssa @ABiyenssa
Ambo, Oromia – Community participants of a workshop on fostering peace in Western Oromia urged for a continued engagement between the government and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in order to end the war in Oromia and bring bring lasting peace to the region.
The workshop was organized by Gurmuu Development Association in collaboration with USAID/USAID-ESP and was held on May 12 and 13 2023, in Ambo City, some 125 km west of the capital Addis Abeba. Aimed at giving key stakeholders and mid-level leaders the influence to strengthen ongoing political and negotiation efforts to bring about peace between the government and the Oromo Liberation Army, it brought together university lecturers, Abba Gadaa’s, religious leaders,opposition party officials, business people, community leaders, high school teachers, and government officials, among other. Mid-level officials from the four Wollega Zones in western Oromia and and officials from West Shawa zones were also in attendance.
“Both parties must reach on ceasefire, opening a corridor for the humanitarian aid service.” Oromo Federalist Congress Public Relations Head, Sultan Kassim Genna told Addis Standard.
“The first round of talk was promising for further talks; both negotiating parties have to solve their problems in political negotiation, both parties have to negotiate [in good faith]; one party can’t take all, it has to be win-win in order to render peace for society,” Sultan said.
He also said the media should play a constructive role in helping bring about a positive outcome. “The media has to take a positive role in creating a positive environment and disseminating information that facilitate the negotiation process,” he said and criticized that “the way some media reported the first round of the negotiation has created some negative atmosphere.”
Kebebush Tamene, a government employee and resident of Ambo city, also told Addis Standard that “both parties have to agree to settle their differences and render peace for the peoples in the region.” The parties have to solve their problems to help the people in the region who are facing economic hardship and social and political crises. She added that the first round of talks was positive, “even seating around the table by recognizing the existence of the problems by both parties is a positive development and constructive for further engagement,’’ Kebebush said.
Abba Gadaa Asfaw Kebede, a participant from East Wollega, an area most affected by the near five years war between government forces and the OLA, on his part said that the war was affecting “trade activities, obstructing agricultural production, affecting access to basic social and infrastructure services such as education, healthcare, transport, communication” not to mention “the fear and tensions” hovering over the region.
“People are starving,” he told Addis Standard, “peace has no option,making a ceasefire is necessary to save the people from starvation.”
Abba Gadaa Asfaw also stressed that “the elimination of the root causes of conflict is the cause for sustainable peace in the region.”
Although both parties acknowledged the positive outcomes in the first round talks, which took place on Zanzibar, Tanzania, the week-long talks ended without agreement.
This week, Oromia regional state government pledged that it was working to ensure the continuation of the talks in due course.
The talks were facilitated by the governments of Norway and Kenya with a role from IGAD.
IGAD said that it was “pleased with the progress made during the first round of peace talks: and that the outcome has “created trust and positive atmosphere for the second round of talks.”
However, on 10 May, the OLA accused the government of launching military offensives in Jaldu (West Shawa) and Adami Tulu (East Shawa), zones of Oromia regional state. “Both offensives were routed with over 75 regime fighters being neutralized,” OLA claimed. AS