Dar es Salaam. A second round of peace talks between the warring Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army is underway in Tanzania as efforts to end decades of fighting between the two intensify.
Rebels from Ethiopia’s Oromiya region said on Monday they were in Tanzania for peace talks, adding in a statement, “We remain committed to finding a peaceful political settlement.”
The first round of peace talks between the two parties kicked off on April 25, 2023, following an announcement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who said that both his government and the people of Ethiopia “greatly want this negotiation.”
In its statement on Monday, OLA said it had delayed announcing the negotiations to make sure its team could get safely from what it called the frontlines in Oromiya to the venue.
An official close to the mediators, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the talks started last week in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, and are being facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The Ethiopian government has not commented on the second round of peace talks. However, in April, Mr Ahmed appealed to all parties of the conflict to “think of today” as an example and to consider that “no benefit” will come out of war.
The OLA is an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition party that returned from exile after Mr Ahmed – himself an Oromo – took office in 2018.
Oromiya, which surrounds Addis Ababa, the capital, is home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic Oromo group and more than a third of the country’s 110 million people.
The Oromo conflict dates back to at least the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) formation in 1973, evolving from the Bale Revolt in the 1960s in response to perceived injustices by the groups in power against the Oromo people.
According to Ethiopia’s Addis Standard, peace talks gained momentum in 2022 as both warring parties signalled a willingness to end the conflict that has destroyed countless lives and caused immeasurable destruction in the Oromia region.
The second round of peace talks occurs as parties are hopeful that they’ll yield a tangible outcome, as while involved parties appreciated the first round of negotiations, they were unhappy with what was achieved at the end.
The federal government described the talks as “largely constructive,” but said it was “not possible” to reach an agreement “on some issues during this round of talks,” according to a report by Addis Standard.
Similarly, OLA said that “while understandings were reached on some outstanding issues, unfortunately, it was not possible to reach an agreement on key political matters during this round of talks,” the publication added.
The ongoing peace talks in Dar es Salaam involve the Commander of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Kumsa Diriba, popularly known as Jaal Marroo, signifying the seriousness that parties have in the entire process of finding a long-lasting solution to the conflict.
According to reports, with the help and facilitation of external mediators, Jaal Marroo was flown out of a remote location in western Oromia to the nearby Dembi Dolo airport before flying out to the venue of the ongoing talks in what will be the first face-to-face meeting with senior military leaders from the Ethiopian government.