Ethiopia to remove OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7 from terror list

Ethiopia to remove OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7 from terror list

In latest rapprochement, PM Abiy’s cabinet recommends removing three opposition and separatist groups from terror list.

Addis Ababa – Ethiopia’s government has put forward a recommendation to parliament to take three rebel groups off the country’s list of terrorist organisations.

The groups – Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Ginbot 7 – have each been engaged in armed struggles against the government in Addis Ababa. 

“Cabinet has submitted a resolution to Parliament for ratification that will rescind the designation of OLF, ONLF & Ginbot 7 as terrorist groups,” Fitsum Arega, the Ethiopian prime minister’s chief of staff, said on Twitter on Saturday.

“The decision will encourage groups to use peaceful political discourse to achieve political ends,” Fitsum added.

The cabinet has also sent a law to parliament granting amnesty to individuals and groups involved in armed struggle against the government, according to Fitsum.

Parliament, which is controlled by the ruling EPRDF coalition with all 547 seats currently held by members of the party, is expected to pass the recommendation in the coming days. EPRDF has been in power since 1991.

Analysts in Ethiopia said the move was a step in the right direction but more needed to be done before the groups put down their weapons.

“The decision is a major breakthrough but for it to be really effective the government needs to revisit some of the restrictive legislation currently in place,” Hallelujah Lulie told Al Jazeera.

“The government needs to look at the current anti-terror law. It also needs to reform the security services, the justice system and also the electoral commission,” Hallelujah added.

Last week, Ginbot 7 said it would cease armed attacks in the country following reforms announced by the new government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

“Our forces have received strict orders to refrain from any sort of armed resistance,” the group said in a statement posted on their Facebook page.

Ginbot 7, an outlawed opposition group formed after a disputed election in 2005 and named after the date in the Ethiopian calendar when the vote took place – has claimed numerous deadly attacks in the past.

Last month, Ethiopia released top Ginbot 7 officials from prison, including Andargachew Tsige, who was found guilty of violent attacks and initially sentenced in absentia in 2009 over his role in the opposition group.

Tsige was arrested during a stopover at a Yemen airport in June 2014 and taken to Ethiopia.

Prosecutors also dropped charges against the group’s leader Berhanu Nega, who is based outside Ethiopia and had in 2009 received a death sentence in absentia over an assassination plot.

The OLF seeks self-determination for the Oromo people against what they see as Amhara colonial rule. Amharas are an ethnic group in the northern and central highlands of Ethiopia.

The ONLF is a separatist rebel group fighting for self-determination for Somalis in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. The group demands autonomy of this region and has claimed several attacks since 1994 aimed at Ethiopian forces in the area.

Abiy, who took office in April, has been pursuing rapprochement with several opposition groups.

All the three groups have bases in neighbouring Eritrea. Addis Ababa has also begun peace talks with Asmara, its long-time foe.