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|Part of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa and Ethiopian civil conflict (2018–present)|
The Oromia Region in Ethiopia
Detailed map of the war
Eritrea (until 2018)
|Commanders and leaders|
(Minister of Defense)
Haile Selassie I
(Former Emperor of Ethiopia between 1973–1975)
(president of Ethiopia between 1977–1991)
(Prime Minister of Ethiopia between 1991–2012)
(Prime Minister of Ethiopia between 2012–2018)
Dawud Ibsa Ayana|
Elemo Qiltu †
Ahmad Taqi †
Tadesse Birru †
Army of the Ethiopian Empire (until 1975)|
Socialist Ethiopian Libration Army (1975–1991)
Ethiopian National Defense Force (from 1991)
|Oromo Liberation Army|
|Casualties and losses|
|1,600–8,900 killed overall|
The Oromo conflict is an armed conflict between the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the Ethiopian government. The Oromo Liberation Front formed to fight the Ethiopian Empire to liberate the Oromo people and establish an independent Oromia state. The conflict began in 1973, when Oromo nationalists established the OLF and its armed wing, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Under the Haile Selassie regime, the Oromo language was banned from use in education and in administrative matters. The Amhara culture dominated throughout the eras of military and monarchic rule. Both the Haile Selassie and Derg governments relocated numerous Amharas into southern Ethiopia, including present day of the Oromia region, where they served in government administration, courts, church and school, where Oromo texts were eliminated and replaced by Amharic. The Abyssinian elites perceived the Oromo identity and languages as hindrances to Ethiopian national identity expansion. Until 1991, the Amhara dominated politics in Ethiopia.
The Oromo people are an ethnic group who predominantly inhabit Oromia and Ethiopia, along with communities in neighboring Kenya and Somalia. They are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa; according to a 2007 census, they make up about 34.5% of Ethiopia's population, and others estimate that they make up about 40% of the population.
The Oromo remained independent until the last decade of the 19th century, when they were colonised by Abyssinia. Under the rule of Haile Selassie, the Oromo language was banned and speakers were privately and publicly mocked to help Amhara culture and language dominating over Oromo people.
In 1967, the imperial regime of Haile Selassie outlawed the Mecha and Tulama Self-Help Association (MTSHA), an Oromo social movement, and conducted mass arrests and executions of its members. The group's leader, Colonel General Tadesse Birru, who was a prominent military officer, was among those arrested. The actions by the regime sparked outrage among the Oromo community, ultimately leading to the formation of the OLF in 1973.
In 1974, the Ethiopian military ousted the imperial regime and seized control of the country. The new Derg regime promptly arrested Oromo leaders; subsequently the OLF was formed during a secret conference attended by Oromo leaders, including Hussein Sora and Elemo Qiltu. A group of armed Oromo fighters in the Chercher Mountains were adopted as the OLF's armed wing, the OLA. The OLA increased its activities in the Chercher Mountains, prompting the Ethiopian regime to send its military to the region to quell the insurrection.[failed verification]
In June 1974, General Tadesse Birru, an Oromo nationalist who had been arrested by the imperial regime in 1966 along with other high-ranking military officers, escaped from house arrest and joined Oromo rebels led by Hailu Regassa in Shewa. Birru and Regassa were later captured and executed by the Derg regime.
In late August 1974, an OLA unit left their stronghold in the Chercher Mountains and advanced closer to Gelemso, hoping that nearby fully grown crops would be able to hide them from Ethiopian soldiers as they made their way towards other nearby towns. Three of the unit's new recruits were unaccustomed to climbing long distances, so they spent the night around the bottom of the mountains, while the rest of the soldiers camped at the top.
When an OLA soldier was sent to retrieve the three recruits, it was discovered that they had been killed by Ethiopian militiamen who had followed the unit to Tiro. A large group of Ethiopian policemen and militiamen surrounded the OLA position in the mountains, and the two opposing groups began to exchange gunfire. A group of Ethiopian soldiers led by General Getachew Shibeshi later arrived, and began to shell the stronghold with mortar rockets, killing most of the OLA's members, including Qiltu. The event became known as the Battle of Tiro. Contingents of the OLA continued to fight the regime after the battle and later gained a massive influx of recruits and volunteers after the Derg regime executed Birru and Regassa.
In 1976, the OLF established a stronghold in the Chercher Mountains and began reorganizing itself. A congress was created by Oromo leaders, which revised the 1973 OLF Political Program and issued a new detailed program. The program called for the "total liberation of the Oromo nation from Ethiopian colonialism". The conference is now known as the Founding Congress, and marked the beginning of modern Oromo nationalism.
In the 1980s, the OLF estimated that they had over 10,000 soldiers. They were poorly equipped in comparison to other rebel groups in Ethiopia at the time, such as the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The OLF also opened an office in Sudan in the 1980s, after its office in Somalia was closed down.
During the 1980s, the government of Ethiopia was accused of using scorched earth tactics, such as burning down entire villages and massacring inhabitants. The OLF also lost several prominent members due to government ambushes and heavy fire; the secretary general of the OLF at the time, Galassa Dilbo, was nearly killed in one such ambush.
In the early 1990s, the Ethiopian Democratic People's Republic began to lose its control over Ethiopia. The OLF failed to maintain strong alliances with the other two big rebel groups at the time; the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). In 1990, the TPLF created an umbrella organization for several rebel groups in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The EPRDF's Oromo subordinate, the Oromo People's Democratic Organization (OPDO) was seen as an attempted replacement for the OLF.
In 1991, the EPRDF seized power and established a transitional government. The EPRDF and the OLF pledged to work together in the new government; however, they were largely unable to cooperate, as the OLF saw the OPDO as an EPRDF ploy to limit their influence. In 1992, the OLF announced that it was withdrawing from the transitional government because of "harassment and [the]assassinations of its members". In response, the EPRDF sent soldiers to destroy OLA camps. Despite initial victories against the EPRDF, the OLF were eventually overwhelmed by the EPRDF's superior numbers and weaponry, forcing OLA soldiers to use guerrilla warfare instead of traditional tactics. In the late 1990s, most of the OLF's leaders had escaped Ethiopia, and the land originally administered by the OLF had been seized by the Ethiopian government, led by the EPRDF.
After the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, the OLF moved its leadership and headquarters to Eritrea. The OLA allegedly began receiving military training and arms from the Eritrean government. On 25 July 2000, OLF and IFLO signed a peace agreement after five days of negotiations, thus ending 20 years of inter-factional fighting. In 2004, the Gambela Region-based Ethiopian Unity Patriots Front (EUPF) rebel group launched forays into Oromia with the help of Eritrea. These raids were only limited in scope, however, as the EUPF had no popular support among the Oromo people, despite having some Oromo members.
In 2006, the OLA in southern Oromia retreated into Kenya in an attempt to regroup. That same year, Brigadier General Kemel Gelchu of the Ethiopian military took 100 of his soldiers and joined the OLF in Eritrea. Despite initially aiding the OLF as leader of its military wing, in 2008, General Kemel Gelchu took matters into his own hands and announced that the OLF would lay down its weapons and abandon its previous goal of seceding Oromia and instead work as a political party to democratize Ethiopia. Along with this announcement, he commanded OLF soldiers in south Oromia to lay down their weapons and surrender to the government.
On 30 May 2015, various media outlets reported that the OLF had attacked a federal police station in the Ethiopian side of Moyale town killing 12 Ethiopian soldiers. This occurred weeks after Ethiopian forces swarmed across the Kenyan border and began abusing locals of Sololo town looking for OLF troops. These forces later responded to the attack by launching an attack on Moyale District Hospital and killing one guard.
According to Amnesty International, as of 2014, there was sweeping repression in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia. On 19 December 2015, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported violent protests in the Oromia region of Ethiopia in which more than 75 students were killed. According to the report, the students were protesting against the government's illegal of expansion of 2014 Addis Ababa Master Plan
On 2 October 2016, between 55 and 300 festival goers were massacred at the most sacred and largest event among the Oromo, the Irreecha cultural thanksgiving festival. In just one day, dozens were killed and many more injured in what will go down in history as one of the darkest days for the Oromo people. Every year, millions of Oromos, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, gather in Bishoftu for this annual celebration. However this year, the festive mood quickly turned chaotic after Ethiopian security forces responded to peaceful protests by firing tear gas and live bullets at over two million people surrounded by a lake and cliffs. In the week that followed, angry youth attacked government buildings and private businesses. On 8 October, the government responded by abusive and far-reaching state of emergency lifted in August 2017. During the state of emergency, security forces arbitrarily detained over 21,000 people.
In April 2018 the OLF made peace with the Ethiopian government along with several other groups including the Ogaden National Liberation Front and Ginbot 7. With the OLF leadership agreeing to disarm its soldiers within 15 days of their arrival in Addis Ababa. According to then OLF leader Ibsa Negewo, the OLF claimed to have 1,305 soldiers in Eritrea and 4,000 in West and South Oromia. The men stationed in Eritrea agreed to disarm but most of those Oromia refused to despite their leaders wishes. One of the leaders, Kumsa Diriba, who is also known as "Jaal Maro", failed to reach a deal with the government and after having a fall out with the OLF, he split away from the OLF and formed OLF–Shene also known as the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Security forces promised to crush the group within two weeks but hasn't been able even after years of fighting. During the following two years, OLA killed 700 civilians in the East and West Guji Zones according to Haaji Umar Nagessa, a "veteran freedom fighter and tribal leader", who was assassinated by the OLA on 4 April 2020.
In March 2021, the 22nd division of the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF), already present in the Tigray Region during the Tigray War, was present in Oromia Region to fight against the OLA, according to Freedom Friday. The 22nd division was led by Haregot Furzun.
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