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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Ethiopian government signs peace deal with prominent rebel group  

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced on Monday it has signed a peace deal with a prominent rebel group Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), formally ending the group’s 34 years of insurgency.

In a press statement, the MOFA said a delegation led by Ethiopian Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu reached a peace deal with the ONLF Chairman, Admiral Mohammed Omar Osman in Eritrean capital, Asmara, allowing ONLF to undertake peaceful political struggle in Ethiopia.

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

The removal of ONLF from a terror list by the Ethiopian parliament in July, and the announcement of indefinite unilateral ceasefire by the rebel group in August facilitated the resumption of the recent peace talks.

Ethiopia’s rapid diplomatic thaw with former bitter rival Eritrea since July also helped turn Eritrea from a chief sponsor of 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 an oil field. The attack left 74 people dead.

After the attack the Ethiopian government undertook a vigorous counterinsurgency campaign.

Ethiopia also undertook large scale infrastructure projects to win the hearts of local population who were thought to be sympathetic to ONLF.

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EARLIER REPORTS:

Ethiopia’s exiled Olympic medalist returns home as reconciliation deepens

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia’s Rio Olympics silver medalist, Feyisa Lilesa, on Sunday returned home from exile for the first time since his Rio Olympics anti-government protest.

Lilesa, who showed solidarity with Ethiopia’s Oromos protesting against the Ethiopian government during the 2016 Rio Olympics, was in exile since the men’s marathon race during the Olympics. He had demonstrated with anti-government sign at the race’s finish line.

The marathoner soon after his anti-government demonstration ruled out a possible return to the east African country over fear of potential imprisonment.

Lilesa - who was welcomed by senior Ethiopian government officials, fellow athletes and his supporters upon his arrival in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa on Sunday - said that recent peaceful transitions and reform within the Ethiopian government structure was the major factor for him to return to his country.

Lilesa followed hundreds of Ethiopian politicians, human rights activists as well as journalists who have also returned home over the past few months following reconciliation call by Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Ahmed, who assumed Ethiopia’s premiership position on April 2, have been calling all opposition groups, government critics and others in exile to be part of the country’s ongoing reform process.

Ahmed’s administration has been also implementing various measures aimed at creating a nationwide reconciliation, which includes the release of high-level political prisoners, invitation for Ethiopian rebel groups for talks as well as the decision to normalize relations with its neighbor Eritrea.

Kassa Kebede, foreign policy chief of Ethiopia’s former ruling party, is one among the notable Ethiopians who have returned home after decades in exile.

Kebede, one of the top leaders of the Ethiopian Workers’ Party (EWP) that ruled the East African country for 17 years, has been in exile for about 27 years since the current ruling coalition came into power.

Ethiopia’s armed rebel group Patriotic Ginbot 7 leader, Birhanu Nega, was also another high-profile opposition figure who returned home last month after 11 years in exile, to the cheers of thousands of supporters in the capital Addis Ababa.

Various popular Ethiopian rebel groups - such as the Patriotic Ginbot 7, Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front - have also similarly declared ceasefire which was followed by return of their leaders from exile as Ethiopia’s reform process strengthened over the past couple of months.

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Bus-truck collision leaves 12 dead in northern Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Twelve people were killed in northern Ethiopia on Monday when a passenger bus collided with a truck, authorities said.

Several others were injured in the collision, said Mekasha Tesfaye, chief officer of Road Traffic Study Bureau, North Shewa zone, Amhara regional state.

He said North Shewa zone has in recent months witnessed a spate of traffic accidents. At least 43 people were killed in three major accidents in the last five months.

Despite having one of the lowest per capita car ownerships in the world, deadly traffic accidents in Ethiopia are common, with blames put on bad roads, a flawed driving license issuance system and lax enforcement of safety rules.

Traffic accidents in the year that ended on July 7 led the death of 4,500 people.

           

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