A peace pact in Ethiopia has defused fears of regional unrest

The signing was witnessed by senior leaders of Oromia, Oromo traditional leaders, elders, scholars, youths, and political party representatives.
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA – SEPTEMBER 15: Dawud Ibsa (R), leader of the once-banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Takele Uma Benti (L), Mayor of Addis Ababa, attend the welcome ceremony for Ibsa at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on September 15, 2018. Thousands of people thronged the Ethiopian capital on Saturday to welcome Dawud Ibsa, leader of the once-banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The OLF is a political organization established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to lead the national liberation struggle of the Oromo people against what they perceived as “Abyssinian colonial rule”. Minasse Wondimu Hailu / Anadolu Agency

An Ethiopian government coalition partner and a sometimes violent group seeking self-determination made peace on Thursday, ending months of confrontations in the country’s largest and most populous region.

In Ambo, Oromia regional state, 125 kilometers west of the capital Addis Ababa, the Oromia regional state government under the Oromo Democratic Party (one of four parties in the ruling coalition) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) signed what has been called a “reconciliation pact,” according to the state Ethiopian News Agency (ENA).

The signing was witnessed by senior leaders of Oromia, Oromo traditional leaders, elders, scholars, youths, and political party representatives.

There had been clashes between government forces and OLF combatants in Western Oromia, triggering fears that the reforms that followed Africa’s youngest leader Abiy Ahmed coming to power in April 2018 might be threatened.

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Milkesa Mideksa, representing Oromia regional state and Dawud Ibsa, the OLF chair, on the occasion pledged to avoid bloodshed and move forward, leaving the past behind.

After a reconciliation forum last Tuesday in Addis Ababa, a committee of 71 people was formed to work out details for the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of armed members of the OLF, which the government removed the “terrorist” label from last July.

The OLF combatants led by Dawud Ibssa came back from Eritrea in September 2017 – Ethiopia’s northern neighbor from where the rebels had launched an armed struggle. The OLF’s return was made possible by the reforms launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who introduced a raft of drastic reforms after coming to power in April 2017. 

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