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Ethiopia inks peace deal with separatist group

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses a news conference in his office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on August 25, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

Ethiopia says it has signed a peace deal with the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), formally ending more than three decades of insurgency in the eastern Somali regional state.

Formed in 1984, the ONLF had been fighting for the rights of ethnic Somalis living in eastern Ethiopia to self-determination, including the option of secession.

Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu and the vice president of the Somali regional state Mustafa Omer traveled to the Eritrean capital Asmara to hammer out the peace deal with the ONLF.

"The Ethiopian government and the ONLF delegations held productive discussions and reached a historic deal that allows the ONLF to undertake a peaceful political struggle in Ethiopia," the foreign ministry said.

Since taking office in April, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has released imprisoned dissidents and prioritized reconciling with the country's various opposition groups.

The peace talks took place after the Ethiopian parliament in July removed the ONLF from a terror list, which prompted the group to declare an indefinite unilateral ceasefire in August.

Ethiopia's breakneck diplomatic thaw with former rival Eritrea since July also helped turn Asmara from a chief sponsor of the ONLF to one that is mediating between the two sides.

The ONLF made international headlines on April 24, 2007, when it launched a deadly raid on a Chinese-run oil field in the Somali regional state. The attack left 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese dead.

After the attack, the Ethiopian government undertook a large-scale counterinsurgency campaign, with rights groups accusing Addis Ababa of widespread abuses, including torture, rape and murder.

(Source: AFP)

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