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News: Veteran Oromo politician, scholar says govt must lift terrorist designation from OLA to enable dialogue

Lencho Letta. Photo: EPA

Addis Abeba – Lencho Letta, a retired veteran Oromo politician and one of the early founders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), said that the the federal government should remove terrorism designation from the Oromo Liberation Army (referred by the government as “Shene”). Otherwise, local stakeholders such as Oromo elders (Abbootii Gadaa), will find it difficult to speak with the fighters with the aim to negotiate and solved the conflict in Oromia through dialogue.

The OLA was designated as a terrorist organization by members of the Ethiopian parliament on May 05 2021 along with the TPLF after a decision on May 01 by the Council of Ministers that approved the resolution to designate the groups as terrorist organizations. The TPLF was de-listed from the list on 22 March.

Speaking to state media publication in Afaan Oromoo, Lencho said that the issue requires dialogue not only with Oromia but also with the federal government. There must be a “ceasefire for the success of the talks,” he said.

Lencho’s message adds up to increasing calls from various stakeholders to resolve the war in Oromia that has been going on for almost five years between the OLA and the Ethiopian government. On 20 March Ethiopian members of the national parliament who are elected from Oromia regional state, sent a letter to the African Union suggesting the continental body to “intervene and negotiate to reach an agreement”.

Earlier, during his first visit to Ethiopia, and subsequent meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “expressed concerns about the situation in Oromia and the need for a resolution through dialogue.”

The Oromia regional state president himself has called for reconciliation with OLA while addressing the 6th regular meeting of Caffee Oromia, the regional council, on 17 February. “There is nothing we cannot solve through peaceful means; no force should pay unnecessary scarifies,” Shimelis said. It was the second time the President made public comment on the need to end the conflict through peaceful means. In early February, in what appeared to be a sharp departure in tone and messaging from previous statements, Shimelis said that he wanted to end the fighting in Oromia.

Lencho said he was overjoyed by the call for reconciliation, which was reciprocated by the OLA as “welcome news“, but he expressed his concerns over implementation delays. The crisis in Oromia “require maturity and understanding,” he said. He also criticized the cross-border attacks in the Oromia region.

The conflict in Oromia today cannot only be a matter of political intellectuals, Lencho further said, and called on the Oromo to unite themselves and rally other national groups alongside them to ensure a strong country. AS

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