By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
June 19, 2011(ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian parliament during its 27th Cabinet meeting this week added a total of five domestic and international groups to its terror list, according to a statement by the government.
Accordingly, the home-grown political organizations namely - the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ginbot 7 are labeled as terrorist groups under the country’s anti-terrorism Proclamation.
“The Oromo rebel group (OLF) overall carried out 106 deadly terrorist acts inside Ethiopia” the Ethiopian government said.
“ONLF caused a severe blow on a number of occasions including against a Chinese company, which was operating in Somali region trying to develop oil fields.”
In 2007, the ONLF rebel group carried-out attack on a Chinese-run oil venture which killied 74 people including nine Chinese working for the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration company.
The session also enlisted some international terrorist group, Al-Qaeda and the Al-Qaeda-linked Somali Islamic militants Al-Shabab to its list of terrorist organisations.
The house said the move will help Ethiopia under-cut terror threats in its soil and also to the region that has become highly vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
The horn of Africa country has been targeted by regional terrorists groups that had links to al-Qaeda after intervention in the US-backed invasion in neighbouring Somalia in 2006.
Islamic extremists led by Al-Shabab waged attacks against Ethiopia following the entry of Ethiopian forces to Somalia, which aimed to cripple the insurgency against the internationally-backed Somalia transitional government.
Al-Qaeda along its regional affiliates poses direct threat against U.S. interests and allies in East Africa. Ethiopia, U.S. close ally on the war-on-terror, is well focused to threats posed by the Somalia-based Al-Shabab.
In a statement the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) office based in Eritrean capital, Asmara, downplayed the decision saying “it only is the latest episode in the drama of the government aimed to divert the Ethiopian peoples and international community from its hapless groping to check the looming popular uprising”.
“Hence the issue of labeling the OLF as a terrorist linked organisation is another way of diverting attention from the legitimate quest of the Oromo people for freedom and democracy. It is also an attempt to divert the attention of the international community by raising the issue of terrorism so that the regime will have free hand to suppress the popular uprising using their usual brute force” it said.
The east African region is considered as one of the safe havens for international terrorist groups.
Africa’s porous borders, poor security at sea and airports as well as luck of coordinated counter-terrorist task forces, conflict and political instability among others have created conducive environment to terrorist groups.