Other Movements and Fronts
The EPLF, the TPLF, the EPDM, and the EPRDF were the most
militarily significant opposition movements challenging the
Mengistu regime in 1991. In addition, several other groups,
composed mainly of ethnic Oromo, Afar, and Somali, were also
The Oromo, representing about 40 percent of the population,
occupy areas in south and central Ethiopia that only became
part of modern Ethiopia during the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. The people in these areas largely
became tenants on their own land as the empire consolidated
its rule. Many Oromo resented the alien rule of Amhara and
Tigray from the highland core of the empire. Haile Selassie
tried to win Oromo loyalty by developing alliances with key
Oromo leaders. Although this strategy enabled the emperor to
co-opt many Oromo into the imperial system, it failed to end
Oromo resistance. Examples of this opposition to Addis Ababa
included the Azebo-Raya revolt of 1928-30; the 1936 Oromo
Independence Movement; and the establishment in 1965 of the
Mecha-Tulema, an Oromo self-help organization.
From 1964 to 1970, a revolt in Bale presented the most
serious challenge to the Ethiopian government. During that
time, separate Oromo rebel groups in Bale conducted hit-and-
run raids against military garrisons and police stations.
Until 1969 the Somali government provided military
assistance to these rebels as part of its strategy of
reestablishing a "Greater Somalia." In addition, Oromo
rebels attempted to coordinate their military activities
with the Western Somali Liberation Front. After Mahammad
Siad Barre took over the Somali government in 1969, the
Oromo rebels lost Somali support and found it impossible to
sustain their campaigns in southeastern Ethiopia. In 1970
the rebels agreed to a truce with the Haile Selassie regime.
In 1973 Oromo dissidents formed the Oromo Liberation Front
(OLF), an organization dedicated to the "total liberation of
the entire Oromo nation from Ethiopian colonialism" (see
Oromo, ch. 5). The OLF began an offensive against the
Ethiopian government in Harerge in 1974, but sustained
activities did not begin until 1976. The OLF subsequently
extended its sphere of activity to Welega.
Young, educated Oromo from Arsi initially composed the OLF
leadership, but by 1976 the organization claimed a broadbased leadership with a following from all Oromo areas.
Beyond national liberation, the OLF's program called for the
establishment of an independent Democratic Republic of
Oromia, which would include all of central and southern
Ethiopia, excluding the Ogaden and Omo River regions.
In late 1989, the OLF had approximately 200 combatants in
Harerge and about 5,000 in Welega. OLF troops were poorly
armed and unable to pose a serious threat to the Ethiopian
army. In addition, the OLF had been unable to mobilize
popular support against the Ethiopian government. This
failure resulted from the OLF's inability to organize an
effective antigovernment movement, to convince the majority
of Oromo people that separatism was a viable political
alternative, or to sustain military operations in the
geographically separated areas of Welega, Arsi, and Harerge.
In spite of these difficulties, in 1989 the OLF announced
several military successes against the Ethiopian armed
forces, especially in Asosa, a town on the SudaneseEthiopian border.
On the political side, in February 1988 the OLF convened
its first national congress at Begi in newly created Asosa
Region. Apart from expressing support for the EPLF and the
TPLF, the congress condemned the Mengistu regime and voiced
opposition to the government's villagization and
Data as of 1991