Allied forces fighting against Ethiopia’s central government say they’re “weeks to months” away from entering Addis Ababa, claiming that they are now in control of a town about 160 kilometers (99 miles) from the capital city.
That timeline is an estimate based on the current speed of the push south, a spokesperson Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), a rebel group fighting for the rights of people from Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region, told CNN on Thursday.
“We’ve not seen any signs of slowing down when it comes to our advances or the advances of our allies,” Odaa Tarbii said.
The OLA, along with other allied groups, have said that moving on Addis Ababa is not their main objective. Instead, the OLA said it is calling for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to be removed, a transitional conference established and, ultimately, to hold what Odaa described as a “truly democratic election” inclusive of all voices and stakeholders.
The question of entering the capital city is “purely based on what happens if it comes to negotiations,” with the federal government, Odaa said, adding that the group hopes to avoid a direct military conflict in the densely populated city.
Oda said that the closest area the joint forces held was the town Gerba Guracha, 160km north of the capital and that it was a misconception that the group’s operations in towns near the capital meant it was in control of those areas. “That is not the case,” he added.
In recent weeks, the OLA and TPLF claimed to have had seized Dessie and Kombolcha, two key towns on the road to Addis Ababa.
The town of Laga Tafo, approximately 25km (15 miles) from the capital, is “not in our control,” Odaa clarified to CNN.
OLA has about 2,000 fighters from a mobile commando unit in the rural areas in the vicinity of the town and an additional 400 fighters from the Oromo Special Forces that defected and joined OLA on Wednesday, Odaa said.