Address Ethiopia’s Decades-long Oromo Violence: Catholic Bishop to Government

Bishop Varghese Thottamkara. Credit: ACN

Bishop Varghese Thottamkara has called on the government of Ethiopia and members of the local community to seek solutions to the ethnic violence in the Oromia region of the Horn of Africa nation that has been ongoing for decades.

In a report published by the Catholic pontifical and charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the immediate former Vicar Apostolic of Nekemte Vicariate says the decades-long conflict between the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) on the one hand, and the federal and Oromia regional governments’ security forces, on the other hand, has led to the loss of lives and impacted negatively on Christianity. 

“People are so tired of suffering. They need a solution and we hope something will come out of these negotiations. Both the government and the tribes need to think about the good of the people,” Bishop Thottamkara is quoted as saying in the Wednesday, June 14 report.

The Catholic Bishop who was transferred to India’s Balasore Diocese on May 10 says Ethiopia’s government needs to do more than ask OLA members to lay down their weapons. 

“The government needs to say something to the rebels other than 'lay down your arms'. These people need to be reintegrated into the police and the army. They need to be integrated into society," says the Indian-born member of the Congregation of the Mission (CM).


Conflict in the Oromia region dates back to the late 19th century when Oromia was conquered and absorbed by the empire of Menelik II. 

From April 25 to May 3, Ethiopia’s government and the OLA leadership held talks in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in a bid to end the conflict. 

Ethiopia’s government indicated that the talks that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediated were "largely constructive” even though the parties disagreed on some issues.

In the June 14 ACN report, Bishop Thottamkara says, “At stake is not only gun violence, but also the constant threat of kidnappings and imposed curfews in the city of Nekemte and elsewhere.”

“All this is causing suffering in the populations and also having an impact on the life of the Christian community itself,” the Catholic Bishop says, and adds that some 20% of the Vicariate's churches were forced to close for security reasons.

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He laments, "It is very painful to know that our people, who are going through so many problems, cannot receive the sacraments.”

In the absence of Priests, Bishop Thottamkara says the faithful “depend on the work and dedication of catechists.”

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.