Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said that his government started negotiations with the rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), in Tanzania on Tuesday.
It is the first time the Ethiopian government has formally said it would negotiate with the OLA, which has been battling the government on and off for decades.
“A negotiation with Oneg Shene started on Tuesday in Tanzania,” Abiy said, using another name for the OLA.
There was no immediate statement from OLA, an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition party that returned from exile after Abiy took office in 2018. The group’s grievances are rooted in alleged marginalization of the Oromo people and neglect by the federal government.
The OLA and the federal government blame each other for a number of attacks in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region, the country’s most populous, in which scores of civilians have been killed.
In February, the state-appointed human rights commission said at least 50 people were killed in an attack it blamed on the OLA. In October, the OLA and another Oromo group blamed the Ethiopian government for air attacks they said had killed a number of civilians.
“The people of Ethiopia and the government eagerly need this negotiation,” Abiy said at a ceremony honoring a previous peace deal achieved between the federal government and forces in the Tigray region, where fighting had erupted in November 2020 and ended in November 2022.
The fighting between the OLA and the federal government is separate from the fighting in Tigray, but the OLA forged an alliance with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in 2021.
The group said it is fighting against the marginalization of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia who make up more than a third of the population. Abiy himself was born in Beshasha, a town in the Oromia region