Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2018, 12:53 GMT

Ethiopia: Treatment of Oromos and Oromo Liberation Front (OLF)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 9 April 2001
Citation / Document Symbol ETH36657.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ethiopia: Treatment of Oromos and Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), 9 April 2001, ETH36657.E, available at: [accessed 23 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN),

the Oromo are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, but have had little political power since the expansion of Ethiopia in the 19th century. The OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) pulled out of an interim coalition with the ruling EPRDF in 1992, complaining of political harassment and electoral irregularities. It has continued to fight for "self-determination" as opposed to an independent state, but has been characterised by division, and political and military ineffectiveness" (IRIN 28 Nov. 2000).

Several media reports claim that the Ethiopian government harasses Oromos suspected to be members of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and/or those suspected to be its supporters, both inside Ethiopia and in neighbouring countries as well as those who have sought refuge outside Africa (Eletawi 23 Jan. 2001; ION 10 Feb. 2001; HRW Dec. 2000; New African June 1998).

In early 2001, Ethiopian armed groups reportedly raided northern Kenya and left behind "several casualties" (ION 10 Feb. 2001). The ION further states that "the attack by pro-government militia was targeting rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) ... and Kenyan civilians from the same ethnic group who are helping them in the district of Moyale" (ibid.).

According to a New African of June 1998, the Ethiopian government had "reached an agreement with Germany to enforce the repatriation of Ethiopian refugees" including Oromos (June 1998).

Eletawi, an Ethiopian independent newspaper makes a similar claim when it states that the OLF appealed to UN member states to exert pressure on the Djiboutian government with a view to stopping "the harassment of refugees in the country" (23 Jan. 2001). OLF apparently claims that 85 per cent of the refugees in Djibouti belong to the Oromo ethnic group and "apart from denying them asylum, the Djibouti government was mistreating them" in order "to please" the government of Ethiopia (ibid.).

Country Reports 2000 , states that

military forces conducted an increased number of low-level operations against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Somalia-based Al'Ittihad terrorist organization, and elements of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) both in the country and in southern Somalia and northern Kenya. Some local officials and members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. The Government continued to detain persons suspected of sympathizing with or being involved with the OLF. Thousands of criminal suspects remained in detention without charge; most were accused of involvement in OLF terrorist activities ... There were reports that in June, soldiers arrested 200 persons in Malka Jabdu near the site of a landmine explosion that derailed a train in May ... the individuals arrested were mostly suspected OLF members ... Five journalists of the Oromo-oriented private weekly "Urjii," arrested in October and December 1997, are among the group of 65 Oromos indicted for involvement in OLF terrorist activities ... three of these journalists remained in detention at year's end, and their trials for Press Law violations were ongoing ...

Explosions by landmines laid by the OLF and the ONLF were estimated to have killed 2 to 5 persons per month during the year. The OLF has claimed responsibility for several landmine explosions along the railroad line from Addis Ababa to Djibouti, which resulted in between 5 and 15 civilian deaths; OLF responsibility could not be confirmed. For example, during the summer, a freight train was derailed by a landmine explosion near Nazareth; two persons died and several were injured. Observers believe the landmines were laid by the OLF (2001).

Following this incident, Human Rights Watch reports that many members of the Oromo community "fled various forms of harassment and intimidation to seek asylum in neighbouring Kenya and elsewhere" (HRW 2001).

In 1999, the Ethiopian government claimed that during a clash with the OLF near the Somali border, it had killed Boreda Birru, leader of the OLF together with two "fellow rebels" (Addis Tribune 20 Aug. 1999).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Addis Tribune [Addis Ababa]. 20 August 1999. "Ethiopia Kills Oromo Rebel Leader." [Accessed 6 Apr. 2001]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000. 2001. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed: 6 Apr. 2001).

Eletawi [Addis Ababa in Amharic]. 21 January 2001. "Rebel Group Accuses Djibouti of Mistreating Ethnic Oromo Refugees." (BBC Summary 23 Jan. 2001/NEXIS)

Human Rights Watch. December 2000. Human Rights Watch World Report 2001. "Ethiopia." [Accessed: 6 Apr. 2001]

The Indian Ocean Newsletter (ION) [Paris]. "Nairobi Goes Easy on Addis Ababa." (NEXIS)

Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN). 28 November 2000. "Ethiopia: Oromo Armed Groups Oppose Conflict with Eritrea." [Accessed: 6 Apr. 2001]

New African [London]. June 1998. "Persecution of Oromos Continues." [Accessed: 6 Apr. 2001)

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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