16TH AUGUST 2021
An alliance between Tigray and Oromo military factions against Addis Ababa is set to escalate the fighting across the country
The Oromo Liberation Army, a militant breakaway group, says it is in talks with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front to create a military and political alliance aimed at defeating Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Prosperity Party government in Addis Ababa.
‘The only solution now is overthrowing this government militarily, speaking the language they want to be spoken to,’ Oromo Liberation Army leader Kumsa Diriba, also known as Jaal Marroo, told reporters in the week ending 14 August.
He added that the two parties were planning to establish a ‘grand coalition’ against Abiy. Another OLA official, Odaa Tarbii, added there was already some ‘sharing of intelligence’ and ‘coordination of strategy’ but cautioned that the cooperation was at a very early stage.
It was based on ‘the mutual understanding that Abiy’s dictatorship must be overthrown’, he told Reuters news agency. Abiy’s position is looking shakier, despite his Prosperity Party winning an overwhelming majority in last month’s parliamentary elections.
Federal forces have suffered several reverses with the Tigray Defence Forces taking back most of its regional base in recent months. And the TDF has pushed into neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions which allows it to open up cross-border links with Sudan and threaten federal government supply routes to Djibouti (AC Vol 62 No 16, Addis tries to rewrite the script).
The OLA, which last year broke away from the opposition party Oromo Liberation Front, and the TPLF have been bitter enemies for the three decades until Abiy took power in 2018. With the TPLF now also out of government they now say that they have a common cause to oust Abiy.
This new alliance against Abiy is developing just as the United States‘s special envoy to the Horn Jeffrey Feltman is due in Addis for talks with top officials of the federal government. There was some hope that the new coordination between opposition forces might have made the Abiy government more willing to consider international proposals for a ceasefire agreement.
None of the statements from Addis Ababa suggest much interest in compromise despite its worsening military position. Last week it announced it was stepping up recruitment to the national army and the regional forces, amid reports of new arms purchases.
And pro-Abiy social media activists have been advising Feltman that he should stay away from Ethiopia and divert his diplomatic efforts to help the US in Afghanistan.