From Left — Redwan Hussien,Prof. Mohammed Hassan, Dr. Gedion Timothwos and Taha Abdii
Addis Abeba – The talks between the representatives of the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) entered the fourth day today with the two sides engaged in multiple discussions on preliminary topics, sources with knowledge to the matter told Addis Standard.
Among the topics of the various talks held so far include discussions on modalities and rules of engagement to pave ways for broader negotiations, according to two sources who are familiar with the matter. One source described the atmosphere of the last four days as “encouraging.”
The sources spoke to Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity because they are not authorized, also said the discussions so far are not about substantive issues of negotiations between the two parties.
Earlier this week, Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, the spokesperson for the Executive Secretary of IGAD, described the process as “Ethiopian-led-Ethiopian-owned.”
“The Executive Secretary of IGAD Dr Workneh Gebeyehu has always availed his “good offices” to the two sides. He wishes the parties every success,” Nuur said commenting on the role of the regional body.
Credible sources also told Addis Standard that in addition to IGAD, the talks are being facilitated by the governments of Norway, Kenya. Although some media reports suggested that the EU and the US government were also part of the external stakeholder. Bu according to the sources who spoke with Addis Standard, there is no clear indication that both the EU and the US are involved in any capacity until now.
Both the government of Ethiopia and the OLA have so far remained tight-lipped on the topics of the ongoing talks.
Addis Standard can confirm that the federal government’s negotiating team currently at the venue in Zanzibar, Tanzania, consists Redwan Hussien, National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and Dr. Gedion Timothwos, Minister of Justice, Kefyalew Teferra, head of Oromia regional state’s justice and security cluster with a rank of vice president, Major General Demissew Amenu, Deputy Head of Military Intelligence at the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and Bonsa Ewunetu from Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Ambassador Shibiru Mamo, Ethiopian Ambassador in Tanzania is also present in the discussion rooms.
Part of the confirmed participants from the OLA side include Professor Mohammed Hassan, Taha Abdii, Dr. Banti Ujulu and Ejerso Urgessa. Addis Standard understands that there are more representatives of the OLA present at the venue.
Both sides made the move to resolve the war that has gripped the Oromia region for nearly five years and destroyed countless lives and caused immeasurable destruction in the region, after calls for peace began gaining momentum, including from lawmakers representing Oromia regional state and the US government to end the war through peace negotiations.
On Sunday, 23 April PM Abiy Ahmed made a surprise announcement that negotiations with the rebel group, which the government refers to as “Shene” and designated as a “terrorist organization” in May 2021 would start in Tanzania.
The next day, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) said in a statement that it “acknowledges the statements” made by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and said it “can confirm that the Ethiopian regime has accepted our terms for peace negotiations”.
The group said that the negotiation includes “the involvement of an independent third-party mediator and a commitment to maintain transparency throughout the process,” and said it is “a crucial and positive step towards establishing a lasting peace in the region.”
Over the past few months, both the federal government and the OLA have been signaling efforts in resolving the war through peace talks.
In March this year, PM Abiy hinted at an ongoing effort to resolve the war and acknowledged that the calls made for peace from the Oromia regional state government was decided at a party level with the formation of a committee.
The PM was referring to the call made by the Oromia regional state president Shimelis Abdissa while addressing the 6th regular meeting of Caffee Oromia, the regional council, on 17 February. It was the second such call within a span of a week.
The OLA reciprocated to the Shimelis’ remark at the Caffee as “welcome news“, although it cautioned that it lacked clarity.
The OLA has for long insisted to negotiate in the presence of a credible third party. It has recently published a brief political manifesto titled “From Armed Struggle to the Prospect for Peace”.
The manifesto stated, among others, OLA’s prospects for peaceful resolution of the conflict and said that the OLA “maintains 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.” AS