By Tesfa-alem Tekle
November 23, 2008 (ADDIS ABEBA) – A mediation team said that the government of Ethiopia has agreed to hold talks with the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) without any pre-conditions.
The OLF is an organization established in1973 by Oromo nationals to promote self-determination for the majority Oromo people against what they call "Ethiopia's colonial rule"
In January, a groups of mediators drawn from 3 Oromo-ethnic elders met OLF leaders namely Dawd Ebsa and Temam Yosuf in Amsterdam and signed with the rebel leaders a pact of agreement to come for peace talks under which the rebels agreed to accept Ethiopia's constitution in principle.
"Ethiopian PM, Meles Zenawi called us and told us in person that his country is ready to hold talks with OLF" Ambassador Birhanu Dinka, one of the elders and also former UN envoy to the great lakes region said.
"Ethiopia agreed to come to negotiating table after the prime minister's office looked deep into the Amsterdam's pact of agreement reached between the three of us(elders) and the rebels last January" he added.
After both parties agreed to start talks, the third party has been holding meetings with different influential people abroad and at home.
Recently the elders group has hold two-day discussions with 125 most influential elders drawn from different zones of the Oromiya region under which they urged on the rebel to listen to his people and come to peace talks without any delay.
Ethiopia has long designated the rebel group as a "terrorist" group and holds it responsible for a number of bomb blasts in the capital and in other southern towns.
Another elder Priest Itefa Gobena to his side said that the peace talks will solve long suspicions of authorities over the Oromo for possible links to OLF.
"A number of Oromo-national scholars, investors have been reluctant to return home and serve at home due the fears to what they hear at home" He said adding "The start is a major break through to bring an end to it"
Recently Ethiopia has arrested a number of Oromo including an opposition leader for an alleged links to OLF "terror ring".
The elders on a declaration called on both sides to show a genuine commitment to narrow their political difference which put the rebel group into nearly two decades of insurgency.