The Ethiopian Defense Force has begun disarming troops of the rebel wing of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), in the country's western Oromia regional state, a senior military official said.
In a briefing on Saturday January 12, Ethiopia's Defense Force Deputy Chief of Staff, General Berhanu Jula, said well armed OLF fighters, led by Dawud Ibsa, are still at large in the western part of the country, and are still creating violent outbreaks mainly in Wellega, and in the surrounding areas of the Oromia region.
In August last year, the Government of Ethiopia and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) signed a reconciliation accord in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, agreeing to terminate hostilities between them, and allowing the OLF to conduct political activities in the country through peaceful means.
The OLF, which was once dubbed as terrorist organisation by the previous government, returned to Ethiopia in September last year after a new administration led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lifted the ban on rebel groups and exiled politicians.
"Contrary to the agreement and government's good will, OLF is engaged in recruiting and training youngsters and deploying them across the regional state." Jula said in a briefing adding "members of the defense forces have been disarming the OLF troops since two weeks now."
However, in a recent interview with local media, OLF leader Ibsa said OLF did not have any agreement with the government regarding disarming its fighters. Ibsa was quoted as saying that he will not disarm his fighters.
The central government has been accusing the OLF militia of killing civilians, raping women and robbing banks. In its report last December, the Oromia regional state said OLF troops killed at least 41 people, including police officers and local officials in the western part of the region in the last four months.
"The rebel group has badly affected the lives of the people in the regional state. It has enforced a regulation whereby it can collect money from the people in the region. Failing to do so, they would face harassment including kidnapping" the General added.
According to the Deputy Chief of Staff, government soldiers are now taking control of more areas and retrieving looted properties taken by OLF fighters.