Addis Abeba — With Commander of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) Kumsa Diriba, popularly known as Jaal Marroo, on board, the second round talks between the Ethiopian federal government and OLA kicked off in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday, two diplomatic sources close to the matter told Addis Standard.
The sources said that 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 federal government.
In May this year, representatives of the two sides met for the first time and held a week-long discussion in Zanzibar, Tanzania, aimed at reaching a settlement to end the near five-year militarized conflict in the Oromia regional state.
Although both sides acknowledged positive progress, the dialogue ended without an agreement.
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.”
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.”
Addis Standard learned from the diplomatic sources that senior officials comprised of the federal and Oromia regional state government, and two members representing the OLA were engaged in renewed “political dialogue” over the last three weeks, the “positive outcome” of which helped progress to the ongoing talks between senior military officials of the two sides that kick started yesterday.
The officials who participated in the “political dialogue” preceding the ongoing talks are “expected to join if the talks progress to a signing of an agreement,” the diplomatic sources who wanted to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to give a statement, told Addis Standard without revealing the names involved.
According to additional diplomatic sources in close proximity to the mediators, as the discussion “progresses into a critical stage, it is increasingly evident that the dedication and resolve demonstrated by all parties to reach a sustainable resolution is commendable.”
Regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), is among the key external facilitators of the discussions. “Dr Workneh Gebeyehu, the Executive Secretary of IGAD, is understood to be a central facilitator in these discussions,” the diplomatic sources said, adding “the optimism surrounding the talks is heightened due to his close connections with the negotiating parties and his vast experience in mediation. It is widely acknowledged by both negotiating teams that his involvement is of significant value.”
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Both sides started to signal the move to resolve the war that has destroyed countless lives and caused immeasurable destruction in the Oromia region after calls for peace began gaining momentum in 2022, including from lawmakers representing Oromia regional state and the US government to end the war through peace negotiations.
In March this year Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed indicated for the first time that there was an effort to resolve the conflict, and acknowledged that a previous call made by Shimelis Abdissa, President of Oromia regional state, was decided at a party level followed by the formation of a committee.
The OLA has repeatedly maintained to participate in negotiations in the presence of a credible third party. In a brief manifesto the group published in January this year, it stated that “a lasting and sustainable solution to Ethiopia’s multifaceted and complex political problems can result only from a comprehensive political settlement that emanates from an all-inclusive political process involving all stakeholders and representative [of] political forces.”