Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced Sunday evening the start of peace negotiations with a rebel group in the country's largest and most populous Oromia region, which surrounds the capital, Addis Ababa.
Abi Ahmed said that "peace negotiations" with the Oromo Liberation Army "will begin in Tanzania on Tuesday," adding that "the Ethiopian government and people are in dire need of these negotiations (…) I invite everyone to do their part."
The Ethiopian Prime Minister's statements came at a ceremony bringing together participants and sponsors of the peace process in the Tigray region (northern Ethiopia), where a peace agreement concluded last November 2 ended a two-year armed conflict between the federal government and the regional authorities.
The prime minister did not mention any other details about the negotiations with the Oromo Liberation Army.
The Oromo Liberation Army has been fighting the Ethiopian federal government since its defection in 2018 from the Oromo Liberation Front, coinciding with its abandonment of the armed struggle.
It is estimated that the Oromo Liberation Army was counting thousands of elements in 2018, and its number has increased dramatically in recent years, but observers believe that it is disorganized and not armed enough to represent a serious threat to federal authority.
The situation in Oromia is very murky, as the region is witnessing internal political conflicts, land disputes, and local enmities.
Ethnic massacres have taken place in Oromia in recent years, and the perpetrators have not been clearly identified, especially in the remote Wolegas region in the far west, where the Amhara ethnicity, which represents a minority in the region, was mainly targeted.
The government of Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly accused the Oromo Liberation Army of being responsible for these massacres, which the group denies.
On the other hand, the government is accused of adopting a policy of severe repression that fuels Oromo resentment against the federal authority in Addis Ababa.
The Oromo and Amhara – the two most numerous ethnicities in Ethiopia – claim lands located at the border between their territories.
Ethiopia has been suffering from many local conflicts that often revolve around ethnic backgrounds and land claims since Abiy Ahmed assumed power in 2018 after 3 decades of rule by an alliance dominated by the Tigray minority, and he was overthrown following popular demonstrations that began in the Oromia and Amhara regions.