he Ethiopian government issued a statement on Tuesday warning armed militias in the central Oromia regional state to cease all armed activities or face armed action from security forces.
Speaking to media outlets, Lemma Megersa, President of Oromia regional state, said parts of Oromia have in recent days been facing insecurity by the actions of armed militias claiming allegiance to ex-rebel group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and that the government would be forced to act to protect the lives and security of its citizens if militias don’t cease all armed activities.
Megersa said his government is working with local elders to resolve any outstanding issues and he called on all armed militias in Oromia to heed the government call to cease armed activities and engage in peaceful means.
The warning by Megersa comes as the Ethiopian government and OLF are accusing each other of creating insecurity and engaging in illegal activities while tensions are rising over OLF’s refusal to disarm its fighters.
OLF has been operating in Ethiopia since 1970s, claiming it fights for the interests of ethnic Oromos who make up around 35 percent of the east African country’s estimated 105 million population.
In recent months fighters affiliated to OLF have been accused of conducting deadly assaults on military and civilian targets, including the Sept. 26 killing of four government officials.
It is estimated there are around 2,800 OLF fighters based mainly in the western and southern parts of Oromia regional state, the principal operating ground of OLF.
The Ethiopian government has since April invited various political groups and rebel movements to participate in the country’s democratic process in a bid to foster political reconciliation and consensus.
As part of these efforts, the Ethiopian government removed OLF and two other Ethiopian rebel groups from a terror list in July.