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Talks between Ethiopia and Oromo rebel group begin in Zanzibar

TALKS between the Ethiopian government and rebels from the Oromiya region have started in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, a spokesman for regional Africa group IGAD said.

Rebel groups in Oromiya, which is the biggest of Ethiopia’s 11 regions and surrounds the capital Addis Ababa, have battled the federal government for decades.

In recent years the violence has left hundreds dead and displaced tens of thousands, with Oromos accusing the government of marginalising and neglecting Oromos, the country’s largest ethnic group.

“The talks are underway in Tanzania as we speak…we hope [it] will lead to a political agreement,” said Nuur Mohamud Sheekh, the spokesperson for the Executive Secretary of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

The unrest in Oromiya is one of several security challenges Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is working to address after signing a peace deal in November to end a two-year civil war in the northern Tigray region that cost tens of thousands of lives.

The talks bring together representatives from the Ethiopian government and the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The OLA is an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a formerly banned opposition party.

Both sides have confirmed the talks, but they have publicly provided few details. Tanzanian officials also declined to provide specifics.

Two sources with knowledge of the talks, who asked not to be named, said Abiy’s national security adviser Redwan Hussien would lead the government’s delegation. One of the sources confirmed the talks would take place on the island of Zanzibar.

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A surge of violence in Oromiya in recent years, which included fighting between the government and rebels as well as ethnically motivated killings, resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The government and the rebels each blame the other for the violence.

The OLF returned from exile after Abiy took office in 2018. Oromos, who account for more than a third of Ethiopia’s 110 million people, hoped their lot would improve under Abiy, whose father is Oromo.

But many became disenchanted, accusing him of not doing enough for his community. Violent protests broke out across the region in June 2020 when a famous Oromo singer was shot dead.

By The African Mirror