Addis Ababa – The Ethiopian government this week freed 402 leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), country’s most active rebel movement, which has been fighting for the right of the eastern Somali region to secede since 1984, Sudan Tribune has learnt.
Upon their release, the president of Ethiopia’s Somali region, Abdi Mohamed Omur, said the move is based on the peace accord signed between ONLF and the Ethiopian government.
Last October, Salahdin Abdulrahman led a breakaway group of ONLF which claims to be the main body of the rebel movement and signed a peace accord with the Ethiopian government to end the rebel’s decades of insurgency.
During the occasion Ethiopia’s state prison commissioner Abdi Bedi Ousman said the human rights of the prisoners had been respected as per the constitution of the country during their prison terms.
The commissioner said following the peace deal most of the jailed rebel members have been released and those freed earlier are already actively engaged in the development activities of the region.
The just freed ONLF leaders, members and fighters promised to work with the Ethiopian government and said they will repay their community by aggressively taking part in the development of the region.
The government has pledged to allocate resources to help the members of the ONLF, who signed the peace deal, to reintegrate into society.
Ethiopian authorities have invited the remaining ONLF rebels and other factions to also come to peace talks.
In April 2007, ONLF fighters attacked a Chinese-run oil field in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. The attack, which drew international condemnation, killed 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese workers.
Following the attack, government security forces commenced a series of military crackdowns which led to the killing of hundreds of ONLF militants.
The ONLF and its armed wing, the Ogaden National Liberation Army (ONLA) has long been designated as a terrorist group by the Ethiopian government.
Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of arming and financing, the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). An allegation Asmara denies.