March 14, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- Former Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) rebels being rehabilitated at the Tolay camp In Ethiopia begun a hunger strike to protest poor living conditions, according to africanews.com.
One of the ex-rebels in the rehab center told the BBC Afaan Oromo Service they were being subjected to inhumane treatment and no one cares about them. “Most of our comrades are now ill due to lack of hygiene and absence of food,” he said.
More than 1,000 members of the OLF gave up arms last year and agreed to undergo rehabilitation. The group comprising of around 1,000 fighters is being rehabilitated at the Tolay camp in south-western Ethiopia. The rehabilitation program came after reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed removed the OLF from a list of designated terror groups.
After peace talks in Eritrea, the group’s exiled leaders made a successful return to Ethiopia. Subsequently, Oromia regional state started experiencing normalcy as OLF fighters surrendered their arms and re-integrated back in the community.
In recent times, the deal between the state and OLF has experienced setbacks, with the government deploying troops against armed members of the group it accuses of attacking residents and robbing banks in the remote western part of the country.
The Oromia regional administration has maintained tough criticism about the OLF after it emerged that some of its members were responsible for the increasing insecurity in the area.
OLF fighters and government troops clashed with claims emerging that the latter launched air strikes in the OLF camps. The OLF denied the accusations and accused the state of failing to honor its promise of integrating its members into the armed forces.
Analysts argue the rehabilitation process might fail to realize its goal as it was done hurriedly without any proper framework. It is not yet clear how or what program is being followed to rehabilitate the ex-rebels. Up to now, what’s known is that the rebels are being rehabilitated in the camp, but what are they doing? What is the goal, and how long are they going to be there?
The answers to these questions remain a mystery. Furthermore, promises of being offered training to start a new life are yet to materialize.
Up to now, it’s not yet known how long the hunger strike will last or the conditions under which it will be called off, but the authorities will have to answer fundamental questions about the latest incident involving the former rebels, which is threatening to derail the progress made since Abiy Ahmed took the oath of office.
After Ethiopia’s current administration agreed on a deal with the group, the Oromia regional government agreed to establish a political alliance with the OLF. However, security disquiets remain.
Notable opposition figure Bekele Gerba---who sat in the committee that negotiated between the rebel outfit and the government ---said he’d heard about the grievances, but he was still trying to get the regional government to allow him visit the camp.
The regional administration is yet to respond.