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News: Days after officials vow renewed offensives on armed group in Oromia, fighting reported in Ethiopia’s Moyale environs

Addis Abeba – Several local media reports indicate that there has been fierce fighting between the Ethiopian national defense forces and members of the armed group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), often referred by the government as OLF/Shene.

According to BBC News, “clashes occurred between Saturday evening and Sunday morning” in the Ethiopian town of Moyale close to the border with Kenya. Southern Oromia is where the armed group is actively engaged in militarized clashes with federal Oromia regional state security forces including the special forces and the local police.

The news came one day after a senior ENDF army officer and a statement from the federal government communication service office indicated the government’s plan to launched renewed offensives against OLA, a group designated by parliament as a “terrorist organization.”

On Saturday 02 April, Colonel Girma Ayele, Coordinator of ENDF’s Southern Command, said that the army has launched a decisive action against the group. According to him, a coordinated operation against the group between federal and regional forces resulted in the arrest of OLA members and capture of variety of weapons and ammunition as well as medicine supplies.

Similarly, in a statement issued on the same day, Legesse Tulu, Minister of the Government Communication Service, said that a renewed offensive between the federal and Oromia state security forces were taking action “in a coordinated and participatory manner” with local people. Several members of the rebel group “have been killed in the operation so far”, he said, and “areas that serve as the basis of food and equipment have been cleared.”

Odaa Tarbii, OLA’s international spokesperson, tweeted over the weekend that “in the southern zone, earlier this week, the regime’s forces made a full withdrawal back to Nagele Borana after losing several commanders and sustaining heavy casualties in a battle in Malka Lammii.”

A local police officer at the Borana zone Police told Addis Standard by phone that he was not not aware of any activity in Moyale town and its environs.

The renewed pledge to from federal and regional officials to eliminate the rebel group intensified in the last two weeks after members of the Oromia State Council (Caaffee Oromia) confronted the region’s president Shimelis Abdissa on why the regional security apparatus has repeatedly failed to contain the rebels. Shimelis said that coordinated efforts were underway to strengthen the regional security and to bring about a significant change within few months.

However, several calls are being made for the government and the rebel group to resolve the crisis by launching peace talks. In its latest statement, the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC, urged “the federal government to commit without delay to ending the conflict with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) through peaceful means, in the same way it extended an olive branch to the Tigray region.” OFC cautioned that it was “impossible to guarantee peace and stability in Ethiopia without an Oromia that is at peace.” AS

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