By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 25, 2012 (ADDIS ABABA) – The leadership of a faction of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel group has arrived in Addis Ababa seeking to resume stalled peace talks with the central government.
Kenya mediated talks between the rebels and the Ethiopian government in Nairobi which failed in October. The ONLF refused the government’s condition that they must respect the National Constitution of Ethiopia and work within the constitutional framework.
Abdinur Abdulaye Farah, the faction’s leader in East Africa, told reporters that his arm of the ONLF has now acknowledged the National Constitution and is in Addis Ababa for peace talks in a bid to peacefully join in the country’s political process.
“We can’t refuse to accept the National Constitution. It is what made us equal with all the nations and nationalities of Ethiopia,” he said.
He also stated that refusal to accept the National Constitution had been an incorrect stance and expressed his group’s readiness to cooperate with government in developmental endeavours at national and regional levels.
It is hoped that the group’s decision will end the separatist rebel group’s three decades of armed struggle for the independence for the predominantly Somali ethnic region of Ogaden in South East Ethiopia.
It is to be recalled that Ethiopia signed a peace accord with a major section the ONLF group in 2010; which led to the release of imprisoned members of the rebel faction.
A third separate rival wing within the divided ONLF has declined to accept the National Constitution and has vowed to continue its armed struggle.
“Those members of the front who rejected the National Constitution have no popular support and there are only a few led by former Somali navy Chief Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman, who is now hiding in Asmara [Eritrea],” Farah said.
Designated as a terrorist organisation, ONLF was responsible for an attack on a Chinese-run oil exploration field in which 65 Ethiopian soldiers and nine Chinese oil workers were killed.
In 2011 the ONLF alleged that government forces killed 100 civilians in the Somali region of southeastern Ethiopia, in a week-long military operation.