OLF plans to drop its long held demands for secession

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The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the oldest armed rebel group in Ethiopia, announced earlier this week that it plans to drop its long held demands for secession and instead work within the political spectrum. The OLF’s move from insurgent activity to electoral competition is both surprising and significant, explains John Harbeson, an African studies lecturer at the Johns Hopkins School of advanced international studies and emeritus professor of political science at the City University of New York. “It’s a complete 180 degrees from what at least a faction of the OLF has always wanted to do,” he said, pointing to the fractured internal politics of the militant movement, which has been outlawed and designated a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government. The OLF’s “fundamental political objective” for the ethnic Oromo people, as stated on the group’s website, is “to exercise their inalienable right to national self-determination to liberate themselves from a century of oppression and exploitation.” Elements of the OLF have disagreed, however, over whether to pursue this objective in the form of an independent Oromia or as part of a democratic Ethiopia. So why is a group that has long practiced armed resistance in what it envisions as self-defense against an oppressive government now ready and willing work with other political organizations? “They have had a low level insurgency for decades now and I don’t think they have a lot to show for it,” Harbeson said. “The other thing the ONLF may think is that the rebels’ time has really come in Ethiopia, Harbeson said, explaining that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the country’s leader since 1991, has said he may step down in 2015.
(The Sub-Saharan Informer)