News: US turns attention to “end instability in Oromia”; confirms Eritrean troops “ongoing” withdrawal from Tigray

Addis Abeba – The US government turns its attention to seek an end to the ongoing conflict in Oromia regional state when in phone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Secretary of State Antony Blinken “discussed the need to bring an end to ongoing instability in the Oromia region.”

This came in the backdrop of increasing militarized hostilities between government forces and armed members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), known by the government as “Shene.” In the latest push for military solution, on 03 January, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) said a renewed military operation was launched in southern Oromia aimed at destroying the rebel group operating in the area and stabilizing the region and that the operation “has been successful”, and the army has “liberated several villages in Southern Oromia.”

In the same week, however, Addis Standard reported that members of the OLA broke into a zonal correction facility in Bule Hora town, in West Guji Zone, Southern Oromia, and set more than 480 prisoners free.

There were increasing calls for peaceful resolution of the conflict, which started nearly four years ago. On 05 December, the MPs who are also members of the ruling Prosperity party had submitted a letter consisting ten points to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and senior leaders of the parliament demanding lasting peace in Oromia region. The MPs called on the government in an unprecedented manner to cease the war in Oromia and make peace deal with Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). However, both the regional government and the national army upped the threat against the rebel group as reports of intensified fighting in several parts of Oromia continued to emerge including the use of drones in civilian populated areas.

The readout provided by the State Department gave no information on the details of the discussion or what course of action needed to be taken to end the “instability”, but it has been commended by politicians, including Jawar Mohammed, who said he was “glad to see the US government has began pushing for peaceful resolution of the civil war in Oromia.”

On the continued presence of Eritrean and Amhara forces in Tigray, Blinken confirmed there was an “ongoing” withdrawal of Eritrean troops , and that the development was “key to securing a sustainable peace in northern Ethiopia.”

In A tweet he sent out, Blinken hailed the process “significant progress made so far on implementation of the cessation of hostilities agreement; the ongoing withdrawal of Eritrean troops is a critical step in securing hope and peace” the secretary tweeted, making it the first official confirmation that the Eritreans are departing.

On Friday last week, residents in major Tigray cities like Axum and Adawa witnessed massive activities of withdrawal of Eritrean troops from their areas. “20 to 30 trucks carrying troops have passed to Adi Barak over the past two days. What makes today’s movement different is that they are way too many and they are carrying everything. There are even trucks carrying anti-plane missiles,” a resident from Adwa told the BBC on Friday.

However the news of the withdrawal hasn’t been confirmed by the African Union appointed Monitoring, Verification and Compliance Mission (MVCM) team, who on 10 January confirmed the launch of the disarmament process of Tigrayan combatants.

The Executive Declaration on the Modalities for the Implementation of the Pretoria agreement, which was signed in Nairobi on 12 November, article 2.1/D, which stated that, “disarmament of heavy weapons will be done concurrently with the withdrawal of foreign and non-ENDF forces from the region.”

Secretary Blinken also urged access for international human rights monitors, affirming to PM Abiy Ahmed, “the commitment of the US to support the African Union-led peace process in northern Ethiopia”. AS

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