Oromiya authorities urge rebels to lay down arms

The Oromiya regional authorities on Tuesday offered an olive branch to the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), urging its members to lay down their weapons and join the democratic process.

Dr Mohammed Alyi, the vice president of the Oromiya Regional Government, told IRIN that OLF leaders would be safe from persecution if they decided to join the political process.

He spoke out as several members of the OLF were arrested in connection with an attack on a hotel on 11 September – the Ethiopian New Year - in which four people were killed and 38 injured. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has publicly blamed the OLF, which has denounced the attack and denied any responsibility.

Even though he branded the OLF as "terrorists", Mohammed said: “We would welcome it if they lay down their weapons and became part of the democratic movement to protest through legal peaceful means."

“This is our constitution," he added. "Anybody that can peacefully conduct his struggle is welcome."

However, Mohammed, who was appointed vice president a year ago, said the OLF would be unlikely to join the political process because they had "very little support".