By Staff Reporter
February 11, 2020 (Ezega.com) -- The Ethiopian government is set to hold peace talks with the rebel faction of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) otherwise called ‘Shene’ through the mediation of a third party, an Ethiopian official has said.
Accordingly, the mediation team made up of members of Abba Gadaa and Mecha Tulema, the traditional democratic systems used by the Oromos, and scholars drawn from Wellega and Ambo universities. The group will leave for violence-hit western Ethiopia next Thursday, Oromia Communications Affairs Bureau Head Getachew Balcha told the VOA Amharic news.
Getachew neither stated when the peace talks will begin nor if leaders of the rebel “Shene” has accepted and will take part in the planned negotiations.
“A mediation team drawn from eight zones of Oromia has been set up in response to a call by regional and federal governments to resolve deteriorating security situations in western Ethiopia,” Getachew said
Critics say the peace talks are unlikely to happen as leader of the rebel faction Kumissa Diriba otherwise called ‘Merroo’ had demanded the government to disengage its forces from all parts of western Ethiopia before any peaceful negotiation can take place.
Kumissa also had been calling for a “third party” if mediation is to take place between his forces and the federal and Oromia governments.
Asked if the mediating team is ‘independent,” Getachew said the mediating team was initiated and formed by members of Abbaa Gadaa and scholars who speak the same language with both negotiating parties.
Since it returned from Eritrea, where it was sheltered for so long, the OLF Shene has been accused of various crimes and atrocities. They include cross-border raids and killings, bank robberies, abductions, including at least 19 students, 14 of them girls, from Dembi Dolo university in early December last year. The whereabouts of these students are unknown. Some people in social media are calling for this group to be reclassified as a terrorist organization, nationally and internationally.
It is unknown whether the political wing of the OLF, led by Dawd Ibsa, that is stationed in Addis Ababa, has anything to do with the OLF Shene. Previous reports indicated that the two had separated. However, there is no independent confirmation of that claim that this media knows about.
Responding to questions from MPs last week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the government did not have clear information if the students were taken hostages by “Shene” troops in western Ethiopia.
The government maintained silence despite multiple demonstrations by ethnic Amhara people, who represent the second most populous ethnic group to which the captives belong.
“The rebel force has been killing, wounding and kidnapping innocent people. Its claim in no way is acceptable and as a legitimate body, the government will never disengage its forces from the area,” Getachew added.
Members of the national defense forces, regional and police forces, as well as local militia, have been deployed in western Ethiopia particularly in Qellem Wellega where the rebel group uprooted thousands of people.
“Two armed forces cannot exist in a country and we want the insurgent group to come to the negotiating table to resolve the conflict in western Ethiopia,” Getachew added.
According to the communication head, the regional government will return the displaced people who fled Qellem Wellega to neighboring Gambella and other towns once the security problem in the area is resolved.
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