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Updated: Gov’t, OLA second round talks in Tanzania end without agreement, again

Addis Abeba – After two weeks of talks that began with promises of ending the five-year militarized conflict in Oromia region between government forces and forces of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), the talks have formally ended without agreement for the second time.

The federal government made the official announcement late tonight that the talks that were taking palace in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania ended without agreement. It came after days of on and off reports of stalemate over key substantive issues in the peace talks, which kicked off in off with senior military officials of the two sides.

“This round of  talk has been held in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. The FDRE Government, throughout these talks has primarily been motivated by its desire to silence the guns and to put an end to the horrific harm and destruction,” Redwan Hussein, national security adviser to prime minister Abiy Ahmed, who has been part of the talks representing the government, posted on X.

According to well placed diplomatic sources who spoke to Addis Standard today, the two sides failed to pass a stalemate that intensified since yesterday “over matters of significance.”

The OLF side tabled proposals to negotiate “a substantial shift in governance”, including demands for arrangements of “inclusive governance and embrace of all political parties in Oromia”, whereas the government’s side focused on arrangements with OLA alone, similar in substance to the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed between the government and the TPLF in November last year, the sources further said.

But according to Redwan the “talks have come to an end without an agreement” due to “the intransigence of the other party.”

The OLA in its part confirmed that the talks have collapsed and blamed “the Ethiopian government was only interested in co-optation of the leadership of the OLA rather than beginning to address the fundamental problems that underlie the county’s seemingly insurmountable security and political challenges.”

In a statement it just released, the group further said “the OLF-OLA involved its highest leadership in this round of the talks. To pave the path for addressing the main demands of our people, the OLF-OLA tabled a series of inclusive proposals from Zanzibar to Dares Salaam to negotiate a space for a meaningful change in the governance of the Oromia region.”

“A historical opportunity to take a leap in the right direction has been lost because of Ethiopian government [failure] to course correct,” the statement said.

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The two sides have been engaged in talks Since 07 November 2023, with General Getachew Gudina, Head of Military Intelligence of the federal defense forces, and his deputy, Major General Demis Amenu representing the government, while Kumsa Diriba a.k.a Jaal Marroo, OLA Commander and Gemechu Regassa a.k.a Jaal Gemechu Aboye, OLA deputy commander and Southern Command chief as well as Ejerso Urgessa, and Jiregna Gudata represented OLA.

Redwan Hussein and Gedion Timothewos (PhD), minister of Justice, joined the talks following “positive progress” that led both parties to transition into addressing substantive issues. 

How did the peace talks unfold?

Both sides started to signal the move to resolve the war that has destroyed countless lives and caused immeasurable destruction in the Oromia region over the past five years, after calls for peace began gaining momentum in 2022, including from lawmakers representing Oromia regional state and the US government to end the war through peace negotiations.

In April this year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed indicated for the first time that there was an effort to resolve the conflict, and acknowledged that a previous call made by Shimelis Abdissa, President of Oromia regional state, was decided at a party level followed by the formation of a committee.

The OLA has repeatedly maintained to participate in negotiations in the presence of a credible third party. In a brief manifesto the group published in January this year, it stated that “a lasting and sustainable solution to Ethiopia’s multifaceted and complex political problems can result only from a comprehensive political settlement that emanates from an all-inclusive political process involving all stakeholders and representative [of] political forces.” 

Accordingly, on 25 April representatives of the two sides met for the first time and held a week-long discussion in Zanzibar, Tanzania, aimed at reaching a settlement with IGAD, governments of Norway and Kenya playing a role as facilitators. Although both sides acknowledged positive progress, the dialogue ended without an agreement.

The federal government described the talks as “largely constructive,” but said it was “not possible” to reach an agreement “on some issues during this round of talks.” Similarly, OLA said that “while understandings were reached on some outstanding issues, unfortunately, it was not possible to reach an agreement on key political matters during this round of talks.”

Six months later, the second round of talks resumed  in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with Commander of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) Kumsa Diriba, popularly known as Jaal Marroo, and his deputy Gemechu Regassa a.k.a Jaal Gemechu Aboye on board.

The talks were preceded by a series of meetings over the previous weeks between the federal and Oromia regional state government senior officials on the one hand, and two members representing the OLA who were engaged in renewed “political dialogue.” 

The U.S through a delegation led by Ambassador Mike Hammer, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Dr. Workneh Gebeyehu, the Executive Secretary of Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and senior diplomats representing the governments of Kenya and Norway have played a key role in mediating and facilitating the second round talks which ended without an agreement. AS

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