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News: OLF hits back at PM Abiy’s parliament speech, highlights broken promises

Dwud Ibssa, OLF’s Chairman, has been placed on house arrest for several months following the assassination of popular Oromo artist Hachalu hundessa.

Addis Abeba – The opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has voiced strong criticism against PM Abiy Ahmed’s remarks made during his appearance before the House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) on 06 February 2024.

Speaking about the agreement reached between the Ethiopian government and OLF in Asmara in 2018, that enabled the then exiled party to return home, PM Abiy Ahmed said there was no special deal with OLF, but a call similar to the one extended to other armed groups to return home and pursue peaceful struggle.

“Most of OLF representatives who engaged in talks with the government in Asmara, are now in Addis Abeba, some of them are working with the government assuming different positions,” PM Abiy said, dismissing the need for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the then armed wing of the OLF, to revert back to armed struggle.

“If there was a special agreement with OLF [that wasn’t met], there would have been no reason for some of them [OLF leaders] to assume power and others to enter the bush, causing suffering to many people,” the PM remarked.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, subsequent to the PM’s remarks, the OLF highlighted what it claimed to be details of the agreement reached in Asmara, transforming the nature of the relationship between the state of Ethiopia and OLF from war to peaceful relations, being the major one.

According to the statement, integration of OLF army, non-partisanship of the Ethiopian security forces, return of OLF offices including its headquarters in Addis Abeba and other confiscated properties, were parts of the deal.

However, the party accused the government of violating the agreement upon its return to the country from Eritrea, and “declaring war” on the OLA, its then armed wing. It recalled failed attempts by Gada leaders to restore the agreement back on track.

“OLF’s activities were banned. Reopened offices were closed in many places by the military and the police. Its properties were looted. All top leaders were forcefully evacuated from the headquarters in Gulelle by the police and the head office is guarded by the police to date,” the statement conveyed. 

The OLF’s Chairman Dawud Ibssa has been restricted from his party functions right after the 29 June 2020 assassination of famous Oromo artist Hachalu Hundessa. Although he has been allowed intermittent visitations from families and party members, in early May 2021, his house was raided by security forces at night shortly after the party released a statement rejecting the resolution by the council of ministers designating “TPLF & Shene as terrorist organizations”.

“There are no party leaders and political officers of the OLF across Oromia, who have not been arrested, as confirmed by a committee established by the Election Board,” the party said in its latest statement. 

Furthermore, “OLF senior leaders are suffering in prison for more than four years, and the political space has shrinked,” the party noted, adding that the PM in his parliamentary remarks denied these facts and portrayed as if “OLF is doing its job peacefully, and that there is no broken agreement.” 

Contradicting the PM’s claims, the party said “except for those who have withdrawn from the party, there are no OLF leaders that are sharing power with the government.”

“Deceit and denying the truth on the ground has been a tradition of successive Ethiopian governments often resulting in an endless war, hunger and misery that we are currently witnessing,” OLF concluded.

In May 2022, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report following an investigation into the detention of the party’s leaders in various detention centers in Oromia. The report confirmed that many OLF leaders and members are “illegally detained” and were subjected to abuse. 

The OLF has been repeatedly demanding the release of its leaders since they were imprisoned in 2019, and at times accusing the police of torturing them while in detention. AS

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