News analysis

Guji Oromo need freedom from liberators

In West and East Guji zones, the Oromo Liberation Army is not living up to its name

From the day I arrived in Ethiopia from the U.S. in late February, I began collecting information about the strife in the two Guji zones of southern Oromia. Even among those at Bole Airport to welcome me, some had relatives in the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). They were in tears as they told me of the atrocities being committed against civilians by the rebels.

As I learned during nearly two months on the ground in my home district of Negelle, where I was a parliamentary candidate in 2010, both the government and the rebels are committing abuses.

On the government side, for instance, 20 people were killed by security forces in two weredas (districts) of West Gujii zone in December 2018. Thirteen died in a small town called Finchawa on 28 December, and seven more were killed in Gelana Wereda of the West Gujii zone that same day. The killings, according to informants, were in apparent retaliation for a motorcycle gunman’s attack on an army convoy that had been heading back to its base. Upset at that incident, the army started shooting into a packed street in Finchawa town. The same scenario played out in Gelana.

Another six people were reported to have been executed by government military forces on 20 May 2019 at a place called Derara in East Gujii zone, Gorodola Wereda, after rebels fired at another government convoy. These killings were noted in an Amnesty International report issued in January.

This information was gathered from sources, but a lot of it is corroborated in a more recent Amnesty report, “Beyond Law Enforcement” which documents the launch of a multi-agency law-enforcement offensive against armed separatists in December 2018. This coincided with the surge in killings by security forces noted above.

However, the rebels are also guilty of terrorizing civilians.

The OLA—an armed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)—has killed more than 700 civilians since April 2018 in East and West Gujii zones, according to Haaji Umar Nagessa, an elder whom they recently assassinated, as revealed in his interview on Oromia Media Network. Several cases of torture, rape and sexual abuse, killings, robbery and vandalism including arson were recorded by Haaji Umar. Abductions for ransom are common.

Limited liability

I met fathers whose sons and daughters are fighting with the OLA and many others who were involved in the group. A childhood friend said his father joined the rebels because local officials wanted to confiscate his gun. He preferred going to the bush rather than give it up. My friend arranged a phone conversation with his cousin who is with the rebels and gave me the phone number of his uncle. I was able to talk with the rebel leaders, which helped broaden my understanding of them.

The OLF faction led by Daud Ibsa returned from Eritrea in 2018 as part of Ethiopia’s political liberalization and is now a registered party, although facing considerable government harassment. It has renounced armed struggle. The group that has remained separate calls itself Waraana Bilisummaa Oromoo (WBO), which translates to OLA.

When the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was the dominant party in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, it was difficult for any opposition group to operate in Ethiopia. Many of those who joined the OLA during that time were former protesters and exiled rebels, some of whom had been victims of torture, and who had fled. Their training base was in northern Kenya districts inhabited by the Borana and Gabra people. The number of army troops operating in Borana, East and West Gujii zones during the EPRDF days was small, less than 500 according to my informants. However, their number dramatically increased after Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April 2018.

Rumor has it that the ranks have swelled as former rebels and people with criminal backgrounds joined the OLA to escape liability. For instance, in my birthplace, Jidola, a small town in Goro Dola Wereda in East Guji, which is the center of the insurgency, a great number of people facing prosecution signed up for training after April 2018. By January 2019, the addition of new recruits had raised the average number for each zone to 1,300, totaling approximately 4,000 in the three zones. The reasons for this increase are:

  • When Abiy came to power, people welcomed every group that had opposed TPLF hegemony, and therefore supported them regardless of political differences.
  • The intelligence structure built under the TPLF was partially dismantled under Abiy, so the security apparatus was not able to act effectively against the OLA.
  • Informants told me that some officials who were guilty of corruption under the former regime began funding and supporting OLA militants in the face of allegations of past wrongdoing that were being raised by the Qeerroo—the citizens’ vigilante group that has been demanding investigations into past corruption. Therefore, according to my informant, a number of officials had managed to remain in power by funding OLA gunmen for protection.

From conversations with OLA fighters, they emphasize terms such as Wolabummaa (independence), Bilisummaa (Liberation), however, I found they have no particular preference between a fully independent state of Oromia or greater autonomy within Ethiopia. The conclusion I drew is they want the OLF to be in power in Oromia, one way or the other.

At a minimum, they want a genuine, negotiated process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR). They repeatedly mentioned to me that “the government is not ready for genuine, negotiated DDR; it rather wants us to surrender.” These hardliners will demand that any negotiation with the government be done through third-party mediation.

In Guji, the first DDR attempt was launched by the Gujii Gadaa council on Jan 9, 2019 by Abbaa Gadaa Jiloo Maandhoo. He called for “Kolbaa-Nageyaa, Torbaan-Nageyaa,” literally translated as “week of peace for the people of peace,” and issued a declaration dictating that everybody discuss peace and reconciliation in that week. It was followed by the Loollottuu convention that called on the OLF and the government to come to peace. The attempt did not succeed as planned. However, there were about seventeen OLA members led by one of commanders called Elias Gambela who laid down his arms following the call.

Modus operandi

Unlike in Wellega, my informants told me that the OLA in Gujii mostly operate in the bush. They rarely execute people in the towns, according to residents. The killings are intended to instill fear in the communities in which they dwell. They sometimes assassinate those who speak out against them. They kill those suspected of leaking information or spying on them. They follow through by executing their kidnap victims when family members fail to pay ransom. Anyone who doesn’t support them or who is not on their side is an enemy and must be killed. If they decide to kill you and cannot, because, for example, you are armed or live in a place they cannot reach, they will kill a relative.

From my January 2019 discussion with the top OLA commanders in Gujii such as Jima Reba, aka (Jaal Waaqumsaa) Darara Gumo aka (Jaal Magarsaa) and Umar Basa, I learned that the split between OLA and OLF is tactical. The OLF leadership in Addis has connections with them and they operate with the knowledge of the political leaders. The fact that the deputy chair of OLF, Dhugaasaa Bakako, left the party in Addis and joined OLA soon after the attempt to disarm OLA by Oromo Abbaa Gadaas and the 71-member technical committee supports this conclusion. Dhugaasaa was on the committee. After he left the party based in Addis, he was appointed commander-in-chief of OLA, and was leading the OLA from bases in Uganda and Kenya.

Along with him another Executive Committee member Huseen Dhenge left the OLF and joined the OLA. To quote word-for-word what the rebels told me: “We don’t want to commit the same mistake that was committed in 1991.” At that time, during the transitional government, the TPLF outsmarted the OLF leadership. The TPLF provoked them to announce their withdrawal from the transitional government, then waged war against them. The OLF army was defeated and dispersed.

Regardless of the attempt to unite under the leadership of Dhugaasaa, the OLA is not one organization with a single administrative structure. It looks like the South and the West are separate entities. The assignment of Dhugaasaa, the long-time OLA commander-in-chief, as the top officer doesn’t seem to have succeeded.  The problem may stem from the fact that when the OLF leadership was based in Asmara, their operatives in the West and South enjoyed relative autonomy because the leadership could not visit them, and could only give commands over the phone. That allowed activists in the diaspora and back home to directly communicate with commanders, a practice that continues to this day.

Initially, the public funded and armed OLA. They get money from rich supporters, they kidnap people for ransom, they collect “taxes” from contraband trucks, and they collect funds from their diaspora supporters. Some of this bankrolls atrocities.

On 1 April, residents said that Dhugoo Bariisoo, a respected elder (jaarsa biyyaa) and a traditional leader (Yuubaa) who resides in East Gujii zone, in Sabbaa Boruu Wereda was kidnapped. He has recently been released after OLA received ransom. On 4 April, the rebels assassinated Haaji Umar Nagessa, a veteran freedom fighter and tribal leader, along with his son. They confiscate weapons from residents. This kind of activity was uncommon in the region previously. In Gujii and Borena, killing one’s own clan member is not only a taboo but also the worst violation of traditional law. But this group seems to have no regard for traditional law.

The worst example was that of a son who killed his own father. The father, Getachew Arero lived in Dugda Dawa Wereda in West Guji. He pleaded with his son to renounce the guerilla group and return to peaceful life. The son reportedly shot his father and killed him just for saying that.

Hit and run

The OLA rebels in Guji no not have cars or trucks. They only use motorbikes. Two kids riding motorbikes were killed by government forces in Harekello town, Gorodola Wereda. Rebels usually avoid confrontation with large troop units, but seek and attack small groups. The most serious attack they have launched was in April when they killed 12 Oromia special police troops at Gumi-el Dallo Wereda of East Gujii zone. Their technique is to ambush a government army convoy or strike in a public place and then flee, mostly on motorcycle. That is why motorbikes are banned in the region. These hit-and-run attacks are designed for maximum propaganda value, as civilian casualties are likely when government troops respond.

The local government is trying to restore peace and stability in the region. They have been inviting the combatants to return to peaceful life and working with the national army in a counter-insurgency campaign, which, as noted, has also involved atrocities. They have also trained local militia in every kebele to fight the guerrilla forces. Recently in Gorodola Wereda, the local militia killed three rebels in Qaraaroo Kebele.

West Gujii has now been largely liberated with residents and local militia playing the primary role in fighting the OLA amid a coordinated effort by the government. The same is true in East Guji, the local militia at kebele level is the one that is fighting the insurgents more than the police and the defense force/military. The military plays the least role according to residents. This makes people believe that the defense forces and OLA have communication.

The majority of the residents, including those who used to support them in the past, dislike the OLA nowadays. This is shown by two occasions where locals  called for execution of captured OLA soldiers. In one case, the military executed an OLA soldier called Mashi Waaqoo in Saransar town, Gorodola Wereda, East Gujii zone. Recently also, OLA soldier was captured by government forces in Sabbaa Boruu Wereda of East Gujii zone. Residents chanted ‘kill him kill him’ but the government forces decided not to kill him and he was not killed. Another scenario is in May 2020 when the local militia killed 3 OLA fighters in Qaraaroo Kebele, Goro Dola Wereda, East Guji, and their body was brought to Harekelo town. Local sources said residents wanted to burn the body yet police protected it, leading to conflict between police and residents.

Barrel of the gun

It is important to understand one of the reasons that OLA sticks to armed struggle. Modern Ethiopia, since its creation in the 1890s, had always been ruled by iron fist. So far, power has always come from the barrel of a gun. Ethiopian politics is well-known for the culture of violence. There is a widespread belief that Ethiopia has never conducted fair elections and never will, and the trend of holding power through coercion will continue. So, the conclusion is the OLA should not disarm but continue with the armed struggle.

The truth is that a chunk of the Ethiopian public still believes armed insurrection is the right way to struggle against oppression. It should be obvious instead that Ethiopia needs to transition from war to peace and that it’s difficult to build democracy after coming to power at the barrel of the gun. That will keep us in the vicious circle of violence. Therefore sticking to non-violent struggle is crucial and needs all sides to renounce violence. Even if a truly fair election seems impossible within a few years, everyone should work towards that goal.

But to argue in Ethiopia that all that has to be done is to renounce violence is to swim against the tide of history, and ignore the reality of power in the country. Given the picture I saw in my two months on the ground, that utopian dream of an Ethiopia where guns are not the arbiter of power is – for now – just that, a dream.

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Editor’s note: This article was produced prior to last month’s unrest in Oromia. The author was appointed as Oromia deputy attorney general earlier this year, which the editors were not aware of at the time of publication.
Main photo: Haaji Umar Nagessa, a veteran freedom fighter and tribal leader, who was assassinated along with his son on 4 April by the Oromo Liberation Army.
Editor: Peter Heinlein, William Davison

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Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. Cite Ethiopia Insight and link to this page if republished. 

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About the author

Nagessa Dube

Nagessa was an opposition candidate in the 2010 election. He is now a lawyer in Minneapolis and an advocate for Oromo people’s rights. Follow him on Twitter @NagessaO

27 Comments

  • Mr. Dube is among the returnee diaspora who were bribed by both money and power! This is his government’s statement, not reality on the ground. It is a mere propaganda!

  • There is one universal Oromo language.
    That does not mean, Arsi Muslim Oromo has the same identity as Wellega Oromo, or even Shewan Oromo.
    “Liberating” a population simply based on their language is a dream that will actually divide the Oromo speaking population.
    Instead work on promoting the language and culture which will unite all.

  • 1. Negessa lacks credibility because he is impartial. He is simply government offical who should have given the right information about his current position on the article for the readers.

    2. The reference he is used regarding the killing of 700 civilians by the rebles is the facebook of another member of the rulling party and his freidn called Daniel Areri whom the government brought paying money from Sweedin for the sake of using him for propoganda purpose. This can’t be taken as truth with out being checked by independent organ in a situation where the regime is lebeling any kind of dissent to have connection with the rebels and OLF.
    He mentioned why most of the rebel members joined OLF. He presents evidence from his personal interview with familiy members of the soldiers as an official of the government. In the first place, which family member of OLA do you think comfortably gives the right info for government offical who is hunting their son? This is simply a jock. Second, OLA has its goals from the biggining. Those who remained in the forest believe that they are betrayed by the govt, and the government didn’t respected the deal. They believd that the group in power is not trustworthy which was proven true later. Third, none of the causes that the OLA stood for was answerd.

    The point is the relation between the govt and OLF is the relation between rivals. When OLF came to the country two years ago, it tried to solve the conflict with the regime in power by going far and disarming its soldiers. Creating peace was not the genuine interest of the government as the regime had the plan to use the name ‘OLF Shanee’ to attack any kind opposition from Oromo side that the regime thinks is a threat for its power through democratic way. Its the government officals like Taye Dende’a (who is the close friend of Negessa Dube and who was same batch at the university with him). By the way, the current leader of OLA , Kumsa Dirriba(Marro Dirriba was ithe same batch with Taye Danda’a and Nagessa Dube at university, they were also together in Oromo student movement at Addis Ababa university during the bigginings of year 2000.

    For Negessa Dube and Taye Danda’a targeting OLF is personal. It was Taye Dendea as a government offical who negotiated and brought Negessa Dube from USA. The deal was Negessa fights OLF and silence the opposition arroung Guji and he gets appointment as attorny general. Negessa is fulfilling his obligation by writing this article. But he presented himself in the article as independent person who gatherd info to find the truth, which is wrong!Most of what he wrote is false aligations of the government that he and his friends were writing on their facebook.

    For example, he mentioned the connection of OLF leaders in addis with Dhugaasaa Bakako, if its really true so why doesn’t he bring evidence as attorny general and open a case against the leadership of OLF? He has said it on facebook previously, but its big false.

    The government kills civillians and point finger on OLF. Its aim to antagonize OLA with the people and gain cheap benefit as OLF has strong support of the people. As long as OLF and OFC are there , the party in power won’t win election. He knows that well. So eradicating OLF from political ground has been the project of the government to stay in power.

    To sum it up, attacking OLF is more of personal for Negessa , Daniel Areri and Taye Dendea. They don’t get internal peace as long as OLF is there in Oromia. They feel that OLF is their personal fear. Everything he wrote needs critical look and verification by independent body. I remember Negessa became angry and reacted on facebook against Amnesty international when amnesty international wrote a report on human right violation in the area. I feel that he wrote this article in response to the amnesty report.

    • It’ obvious, Hajji Umar Nagessa was murdered by Shane shifta so called “Oromo Liberation Front or OLA”. Nobody can be witness more than Hajji Umar Nagessa’s family. His wife, daughters, sons and neighborhor gave witness as shifta of Shane murdered him. Why Shane’s shifta supporters blindly accuse the government in case of Hajji’s assassination? It has clearly told in a documentary which discloses the brutal and evil doing of Shane shifta against Guji people. Here is an evidence: open this link and watch a documentary.
      https://www.facebook.com/OBNAfaanoromo/videos/390176368615961/

      • Fellow readers meet Daniel Areri. Chief propagandist of the government for the South Oromia region and a colleague of the writer. What has he provided as evidence? A government media documentary. Mr. Areri do you expect the gvmnt media will say security forces killed him even if they did? Would you be willing to provide the family’s testimony? No, because there is none. Well considering the government killed Hachalu’s uncle days after Hachalu’s murder, I am inclined to agree that Hajji Nagessa’s murder was no different. It is deeply saddening that Ethiopia is led by such incompetent personnel who couldn’t even execute a drama properly. It is an utter disgrace.

        Despite William Davison’s official apology on his twitter page, the true occupation of the writer has not been updated yet. This is a government sponsored article written by the Deputy Attorney General of Oromia. The writer lied about his occupation yet he wants us to believe what he wrote. Ayiyyyyyyyy Ethiopia.

  • • Haaji Umar is not alive, he cannot be crosschecked,
    • The ranks of OLA have swelled after people with “criminal, backgrounds joined the OLA to escape liability, is just a rumor, as the author admits,
    • Words of unknown “informant” who told him about ex-officials that had “managed to remain in power by funding OLA gunmen for protection” is utterly dishonest, assumes we trust the “informant” more than we can trust the author who serves a regime turned viciously anti-Oromo,
    • Defamation of the self-less young ready to give their lives for the cause, stating that OLA killings are “intended to instill fear in the communities in which they dwell” … etc. etc.
    This writing qualifies to be another sedition of the popular struggle. Beautiful democracy allows for innuendos to be shared and traits to thrive.

    • It’ obvious, Hajji Umar Nagessa was murdered by Shane shifta so called “Oromo Liberation Front or OLA”. Nobody can be witness more than Hajji Umar Nagessa’s family. His wife, daughters, sons and neighborhor gave witness as shifta of Shane murdered him. Why Shane’s shifta supporters blindly accuse the government in case of Hajji’s assassination? It has clearly told in a documentary which discloses the brutal and evil doing of Shane shifta against Guji people. Here is an evidence: open this link and watch a documentary.
      https://www.facebook.com/OBNAfaanoromo/videos/390176368615961/

      • That is the common government propaganda produced by state-owned media. In Ethiopia, it is known to every body that documentaries produced by government media are purposely made for political objective. OBN is even the most politically influenced media of all the state-run media. Ethiopian government often forces people to give false testimonies and confessions for its political interests. This is so common in Ethiopia that every citizen talks about when he/she sees government documentaries. Government also bribes or intimidates people to appear before court and give false testimonies against political opponents. That is just normal in Ethiopia. With regard to state-owned media, the government journalists do not have professional freedom and political impracticality. In most cases the journalists are political activists themselves for the government. The the reporter in this OBN documentary is Mr. Daniel Areri. Daniel Areri has been known for having anti-OLF political view for some years and has been quite active on social media posting texts and video messages against OLF and Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Moreover, after PM Aby Ahmed came to power, Daniel Areri and and his friend Mr Negessa Odo Dube became ardent supporters of the Prime Minister and went back home to serve regime in power. Therefore, it is almost certain that this documentary is a political propaganda.

        On the other hand, we are talking about two sides (the government and the rebels) fighting each other. It is surprising that Mr Daniel Areri presents one side’s (the Government side’s) documentary as an evidence. Let alone the Ethiopian government, that is known for producing fake documentaries, any government is not expected to produce a reliable and impartial evidence in such cases. Matters like this need to be investigated by independent body.

        Having said that, the images presented on the documentary are horrific if they are genuine. It is sad that the people had to go through that irrespective of who the perpetrators are.

  • Did you resign from your deputy attorney position already, or you’re concealing your gov’t affiliation to buy credibility cheaply? At least you should have mentioned your (previous) gov’t affiliation (if you have already resigned). How would i believe all else while you lie on what is commonly known?

  • Thank Mr Dube, for sharing information to mass media this was exactly the genocide going on in Borana and Guji Oromo by name of liberators.But some of the comments tha denied this reality is from the rebels leaders and members funded this criminilas

  • The writer concludes by stating that he is convinced that Ethiopia where guns are not the arbiter of power is just a dream now. That means, one way or the other, it is going to be determined by the power of gun and not by the will and choice of the people. That is what the government is doing. What other option could the rebels have in such scenario? How can free and fail elections be imagined when gun power is the determining factor? There is another irony. With this perception, what liberation is the writer talking about when he says Western Gujii has been largely liberated? Western Gujii simply switched the gunman from rebels to government if the fact is real. The title of this article should also be rephrased to indicate that Guji Oromo need freedom from both the Government and the rebels if the writer means real freedom. It is known that western and southern Oromia (including Gujii) have been suffering under defacto marshal rule with heavy deployment of federal army, regional special police and local militia. Switching to government gun will not be freedom.

    The writer, Mr Negessa Dube, was appointed to Deputy Attorney General for the Regional State of Oromia few months ago and, I believe, he still holds that position. He is top government official in the region and, therefore, it is not surprising that in his article he reflected the government side of the story. On the basis of reports by human rights organizations and local sources, the information he presented is far from accurate.

  • In reference to the gist of argument it seems the OLA liberators for the local poplulation are now terrorist by another name.It reminds me way back in 20018 when these groups were waging brutal war against neighboringv Somali region while the Oromia officials like Abiy and Magarsa were either looking the other way or encouraging their terrorist acts. No wonder if these conspiracies are still playing out there.

    • No amount of sugarcoating and shifting blame can hide the disturbing attrocities committed by Abdi Iley’s forces. 1.2 mill displaced, houses, churches burned and this is nothing compared to what this forces did to Somalis in the name of ONLF. Their slogan was ” attack the enemy with your rifle, their women with your peni*.”This is descriptive enough!

  • Correction
    The writer is currently working for the rulling party (Abiy Ahmed). He is the deputy chief of the Oromiya Jutice Bureau.

    Background
    The letter signed by Dr Merea Gudina, the head of OFC shows that, the writer was terminated for good from the Oromoo Federalist Congress membership in 2018 because he withdrew 25,000 US Dollar for his own benefit from the account of OFC

    The current status of OLF
    OLF is still active in both Guji Zones. There are a lot of Itenally Displaced Peoples in both areas. There are clashes with govt forces

    • Thank you very much for such insightful information. Many Oromos that I talked to know very well the connection between OLF and OLA. Abiy’s adminstration have plenty of information regarding the communication between the OLF leaders based in Addis and OLA leaders. But, the government was hesistant to take action for a reason that is not still clear for many of us. From the assaination of Hachalu and others who spoke against OLA, it is quite evident that OMN media has been closely working with OLA.

  • My good friend Negessa Dube is a deputy Attorney of Oromia. Well, we all did congratulate him when he was appointed to this position a few months ago; and also tried to comfort him when OFC, his mother party, fired him from party membership on the basis of an established case in which Mr Dube was convicted of financial embazlment by his former party’s discipilinary committee.

    Regardless, we all should respect the personal opinions of Mr Dube reflected in this commentary. But I believe that Ethiopia Insight, as an indelendent platform, must have clearly stated the obvioisly established conflict of interest that Mr Dube got on the central issues of the article as a political appointee now on duty of the government — deputy attorney general of Oromia.

    • How one with an established case of being “convicted of financial embalmment” qualifies to be appointed as a deputy Attorney of Oromia, one that catches other embezzlers, is beyond me. And he has the audacity to write gibberish on a reputed forum like this. Oxymoron.

      • The OPDO cadres are a team of embezzlers looters who hide their head in government structures to escape from justice. No wonder Nagessa is among them.

  • “Ethiopia insight corrects clear factual errors”

    Clear factual errors

    1. No conclusive evidence has suggested the killing of Hajji Umar Nagessa was carried out by the rebels. Both parties have blamed each other.

    2. Hajji Umar Nagessa never said ” rebels killed 700 people” please refer to the interview on OMN’s youtube channel.

    3. As a person on the ground right now (and back then), the swelling in the number of troops happened after the government systematically harassed members (to the point of execution: former OLA western command deputy killed in bishoftu by police) who had given up arms

    4. The writer clearly contradicts himself once claiming local officials pay the rebels for protection another time saying they are nowhere near towns just in bushes.

    5. “My discussion with top OLA commanders” so the rebels talked to the writer knowing that he is the deputy attorney for the state of Oromia? Or is he their agent in the government?

    6. The claim that western Gujii is liberated is a bit of a boast. Reliefweb humanitarian group has stated that both Gujii zones are highly volatile to date. (July 24)

    7. The writer has cited reports of rape. On the ground, most of the rape was carried out by Oromia special forces that directly answer to the highest command in Addis Ababa. Several cases were highlighted by Amnesty. I am in no way defending the rape commited by the rebels, but trying to hide the security forces use of rape and burning down houses as a weapon is shameful.

    My Opinions

    – As a government official if you had evidence the OLF had ties to OLA, you can and should report to NEBE. Other wise it would be viewed as an attempt to undermine political rivals.

    -“The conclusion i drew is that OLF wants to be in power one way or the other.” Just months back, OLF signed a power sharing agreement with major Oromo opposition parties. Very typical of a power-monger right?

    -“These hardliners will demand that any negotiation with the government be done through third-party mediation.” Given that previous negotiations have failed, this is not a “far-reaching” ask.

    – “This group seems to have no regard for traditional law.” Burning houses, rape of a pregnant woman, torture, mass execution are also taboos in Oromo culture. It is no wonder that the writer largely chose to ignore Amnesty’s report extensively done on that area, given that its his government that labeled it a fiction. (Abiy Ahmed , HoPR)

    -“The local government is trying to restore peace and stability in the region.” Really? The same government that is ransacking opposition party offices, arresting prominent activists? ( Gamachis Bali Jilo)

    – “This makes people believe that the defense forces and OLA have communication.” Considering that Amnesty’s report accussed of the defense force of much of the attrocities, this is laughable.

    -“Therefore sticking to non-violent struggle is crucial and needs all sides to renounce violence.” As a senior judiciary official,What have you done to charge those who have attacked peaceful opposition parties?Those who have gangraped peaceful women/girls because their family members were suspected of being opposition politicians?

    All in all, the blame game will get us nowhere. Geniune negotiations should be made possible. I have appeared to take the OLA side only because of the writer’s clear bias. This type of writing only adds fuel considering now that the writer is a controversial man who allegedly robbed money collected from the diaspora for an oppostion party (OFC) and changed alliances so as to keep the money. The government should refrain from using such controversial individuals as this only derails any prospect of future peace. The blame game will not work! Only genuine, wholehearted negotiations from both sides will.

  • The information your article gives is invaluable. Thanks a lot. But I find it difficult to understand how two different analyses are compatible:
    – “a chunk of the Ethiopian public still believes armed insurrection is the right way to struggle against oppression… the trend of holding power through coercion will continue. So, the conclusion is the OLA should not disarm but continue with the armed struggle.”
    – “West Gujii has now been largely liberated with residents and local militia playing the primary role in fighting the OLA amid a coordinated effort by the government. The same is true in East Guji”. This is possible if and only if, as you mention, “the majority of the residents… dislike the OLA nowadays”.
    How “the OLA should not disarm but continue with the armed struggle” while “the majority of the residents… dislike the OLA nowadays”?

    • That is also my question.

      Additionally, the writer concludes by stating that he is convinced that Ethiopia where guns are not the arbiter of power is just a dream now. That means, one way or the other, it is going to be determined by the power of gun and not by the will and choice of the people. That is what the government is doing. What other option could the rebels have in such scenario? How can free and fail elections be imagined when gun power is the determining factor? There is another irony. With this perception, what liberation is the writer talking about when he says Western Gujii has been largely liberated? Western Gujii simply switched the gunman from rebels to government if the fact is real. The title of this article should also be rephrased to indicate that Guji Oromo need freedom from both the Government and the rebels if the writer means real freedom. It is known that western and southern Oromia (including Gujii) have been suffering under defacto marshal rule with heavy deployment of federal army, regional special police and local militia. Switching to government gun will not be freedom.

      The writer, Mr Negessa Dube, was appointed to Deputy Attorney General for the Regional State of Oromia few months ago and, I believe, he still holds that position. He is top government official in the region and, therefore, it is not surprising that in his article he reflected the government side of the story. On the basis of reports by human rights organizations and local sources, the information he presented is far from accurate.

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