13 May 2018

Ethiopia: Formal Talks Begin Between Ethiopia Government and Exile Based Opposition Party ODF

Photo: Ethiopia Online
Newly appointed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed welcomed warmly by a huge crowd in Ambo, the hotbed of Oromo protests for about three years. In his speech at Ambo University, he said, “I ask you to give us time ... to take organized action.”

A statement issued by the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF), an exile based opposition party, and was received by Addis Standard says formal talks between "high-level delegation of the government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and a delegation of the Oromo Democratic Front (ODF)" took place from May 11 - 12, 2018.

The statement, which neither disclosed the venue, nor the names of the participants from both sides, said that the two sides "held a fruitful discussion regarding the reforms currently unfolding in Ethiopia," it added: "Pursuant to its longstanding public position, the ODF reiterated its commitment to deepening and broadening the reforms and democratization process." It also said that the "government delegation also expressed its enthusiasm to engage all those espousing nonviolent means of struggle. Both sides underlined that this discussion with the ODF is the beginning of a wider engagement."

There has not been an official statement from the government's side and the statement from the ODF adds "much needs to be done"; but it said "the ODF [was] encouraged by the government's recent positive steps towards reforms."

The statement also revealed that "with the aim of kick-starting this process, an advance team of the Oromo Democratic Front will travel to Ethiopia soon for more substantive talks." A source close to the matter told Addis Standard that the "next round talks are expected to take place sometime next week."

The ODF also called on "those interested in contributing to the realization of a truly just and democratic order in Ethiopia, both inside the country and abroad, to reciprocate by declaring their readiness and resolve to re-articulate the strategies they have been pursuing to seek change."

In February 2018 a statement released by the OPDO, the largest member of Ethiopia's ruling party, EPRDF, pledged to work with opposition parties, including those outside of the country. Immediately following the release of the statement, ODF released its own statement welcoming the move and expressing its readiness to work with OPDO. In a breif interview with Addis Standard, Leencho Lata, president of ODF, revealed that "there has always been go-betweens between us and OPDO leaders."

However, the formal talks on May 11 and 12 happened between representatives of the federal government and the ODF. The statement failed short of disclosing the exact purpose of the talks, but it is expected that ODF will move to Ethiopia as a formally registered political party.

A breakaway from the oldest opposition political party, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which is branded as a terrorist organization by Ethiopia's ruling party controlled parliament, the ODF was established in 2013 by the founders and senior leaders of OLF itself, including Leencho Leta.

On March 21/2015, senior ODF representatives, including its founder Leencho Leta, made headlines when they were abruptly told by the government to leave their hotels in Addis Abeba just a day after they landed in what the party said was its tempts to establish a "peaceful political struggle under the current Constitution." AS

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