Despite ongoing peace efforts with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has intensified military operations in Oromia, his constituency, and Ethiopia’s largest and most populous region.
Quoting residents, the Voice of America reported military conflicts in Kellem and Horo Guduru zones in western Oromia, as well as in the North and West Shawa zones in central Oromia, among other areas.
An individual, who identified himself as a resident of Yaya Gulele district in the North Shawa Zone, told the VOA that his family’s house was burned down after the first round of peace talks in Tanzania ended.
“We were hopeful that peace negotiations would resolve our problems and bring us peace. However, what is happening around us is horrifying. In the last week alone, seven houses were burned in Gada Jaba Kebele, North Showa Yaya Gulale District, including our family’s house,” he told the VOA.
According to the resident, these are measures taken by Ethiopian government security forces who accuse the local community of harboring members of the Oromo Liberation Army.
Another resident in Kellem Wallaga zone, Western Oromia, said the zone has been relatively calm since the start of the peace talks, but “the resurfacing conflict is concerning.”
“The people are eagerly anticipating the peace talks, hopeful for a resolution. This zone, in particular, has been the most affected,” he added.
The Ethiopian government has not made any statements about these developments in Oromia.
Odaa Trabii, OLA’s spokesperson, on the other hand, said the Ethiopian government is “speaking the language of peace for the international community while pursuing aggressive military actions” in Oromia.
The regime is escalating its efforts to subjugate Oromia and civilians continue face retaliatory actions from regime fighters in response to battlefield setbacks. Speaking the language of peace for the international community while pursuing aggressive military actions on the… https://t.co/QxS4ERYFzm
— Odaa Tarbii (@OdaaTarbiiWBO) May 14, 2023
In a series of tweets, the OLA said it has successfully repelled a coordinated attack on its soldiers in central and western Oromia. The OLA also claimed four government soldiers have defected and joined its ranks.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, May 14th, the OLA reportedly carried out an attack on a police station in Bishoftu, a resort town that serves as the headquarters of the Ethiopian Air Force, located just 40 kilometers from the capital.
According to Oromia National Media (ONM), a media organization affiliated with the OLA, the attack resulted in the death of four police officers. Additionally, the OLA claimed that prisoners held in the station were freed during the attack.
The Ethiopian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been engaged in armed conflict against the OLA for the last five years, resulting from disagreements over the demands and rights of the Oromo people in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest and most populous region.
The OLA argues the Oromo people, who make up about 40% of Ethiopia’s population, have been denied the freedom to exercise their democratic rights and as such are politically excluded, economically exploited, and culturally marginalized.
Recent talks in Tanzania between Ethiopia’s government and the OLA failed, among other reasons, over the latter’s demand for an all-inclusive transitional government, which the federal government rejected.
The Ethiopian government designated the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) as a terrorist organization in May 2021, along with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). However, while it has since removed the terrorist designation from the TPLF, the OLA still carries the designation.