The Oromo Liberation Front is an organisation established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to promote self-determination for the Oromo people against perceived Abyssinian colonial rule. The proponents of the movement hold that Amhara hegemony has been oppressing and suppressing the Oromo people and their culture. The movement is the culmination of over 70 years of uncoordinated resistance by Oromos against this condition. It has been outlawed and labelled a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian government. The OLF has offices in Asmara (a military base), Washington, D.C. and Berlin from where it operates Amharic and Oromo-language radio stations.
In 1967, the imperial regime of Haile Selassie I outlawed the Mecha and Tuluma Self-Help Association (MTSHA) and later instigated a wave of mass arrests and killings of its members and leaders. Prominent military officer and leader of the association, Colonel General Tadesse Birru, was also arrested.This reaction by the regime had been caused by the popularity of the organization among the Oromos and its links to the Bale Oromo resistance movement.
One of the association's members, Hussein Sora, escaped to Somalia in 1967. He and other Oromo refugees formed a rebel group called the Ethiopian National Liberation Front of which he was named Secretary General. The ENLF soon moved to Yemen and began training members of the Oromo diaspora.
The first attempt to enter the country was command by Jaarraa Abbaa Gadaa but it failed when Somali security forces tracked down the members and arrested them trying to enter Ethiopia through northern Somalia. The second attempt proved to be more successful and the second group of rebels made camp in the Chercher Mountains. At this point, the group decided to operate under the name of "Oromo" instead of "Ethiopia.
In 1973, the political situation of the country had changed and the Ethiopian military had ousted the imperial regime and taken control. Leaders and members of the MTSHA, who had escaped arrest, had been operating secretly within the country by stirring up activism through underground newspapers such as "Kena Bektaa" and "The Oromo Voice Against Tyranny"They organized a secret conference which was attended by Hussein Sora, Elemo Qiltu and various other Oromo leaders. It was during this conference that the Oromo Liberation Front was officially formed and its first political program was first written out The armed Oromo units in the Chercher Mountains were adopted as the military wing of the organization, the Oromo Liberation Army or OLA (Oromo: Waraanna Bilisummaa Oromo or WBO).
The Oromo Liberation Army in the Chercher Mountains was placed under the command of Hassen Ibrahim, more commonly known as Elemo Qiltu. In 1974, the OLA increased its activities in the mountains and caused much alarm amongst the administrators of the region especially when they killed the notorious landowner, Mulatu Tegegn. The military regime of Ethiopia then sent General Getachew Shibeshi to destroy the insurrection. On September 6, 1974, the first Oromo Liberation Army was obliterated by mortar fire in the Battle of Tiro in which they lost both Ahmad Taqi and Elemo Qiltu; only three OLA soldiers survived.
In an attempt to subjugate any further Oromo uprising, the Derg instigated mass arrests and killings in the surrounding urban areas of where the OLA had operated, particularly in the cities of Gelemso, Baddessa, Mechara, Boke and Balbaleti. After the short lived guerrilla war, the OLF become even more disorganized and a few of its leaders moved back to Aden in order to restructure the organization but to no avail.
General Tadesse Birru, who had escaped from prison, continued an armed struggle in the Shewa region of the Oromo nation along with Hailu Regassa. They were eventually captured and executed in 1976 but his OLA contingent continued fighting and gained an influx of recruits after the executions