JIGJIGA [Ethiopia] — The Ethiopian government has officially released four war prisoners captured from the country’s most active rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) on Wednesday in the city of Jigjiga.
Reports in Jigjiga said three men – Abdulnur Soyan, Dhire Kafi and Hassan Ma’alim Ali were released from a central prison in the town.
Mr Soyan and Kafi are said to be members of the movement’s central committee and have been behind bars for the past two years. The two men were detained in the Somali semi-autonomous region of Puntland by security forces and were handed over to Ethiopian authorities.
In June, the Puntland state of Somalia signed a key Memorandum of Understanding with Ethiopia’s Somali National Regional State in the fields of security and trade. The two states agreed to fight against the ONLF, Al-Shabab and other groups whom they accused of trying to destabilize the region.
While speaking to the BBC-Somali services, the two men said they will denounce violence and lay down their arms. They instead promised to work with the Ethiopian administration.
“The fact that I can drive a white car in the middle of Jigjiga peacefully means Ethiopia will not harm any civilian in the country-side,” Mr Soyan told BBC-Somali.
The Ethiopian government signed a breakthrough ceasefire with the rebel in Frankfurt, Germany, on the 15th of June – which includes a three-months ceasefire (see Ogaden breakthrough: rebel group signs ceasefire). Since early June, a large faction of the movement led by Salahdin Abdulrahman Maow and 20 other senior members have been disarming voluntarily. The government in Addis Ababa claims the 20 members hold about 60 per cent of the movement’s support base.
Mr Abay Tsehaye, Ethiopia’s security and intelligence advisor, told AFP on Saturday the group was in it’s last leg and has lost all support of the locals. He said it was nearing collapse.
The Meles Zenawi administration who now control the entire country including the Parliament – only two oppositions sit in Parliament, said it will grant the movement more autonomy-style of rule. The government plans to incorporate a significant rebel forces into the Somali National Regional State army and police once they are disarmed and rehabilitated. Addis Ababa has given the group until end of August to finalize the agreement with the government.
The reports also added a middle-aged woman – said to be Bishaaro Wa’adi Shaqlane was also among those released today in Jigjiga. The ONLF has in the past accused the Somaliland administration of handing Bishaaro over to Jigjiga. The movement claims Mrs Shaqanle, who is a senior member of the Ogaden Womens Democratic Alliance (OWDA) was arrested in Hargeisa on February 10th of this year.
Somaliland maintains close relations with the Addis Ababa administration and has in the past accused the ONLF of targeting Somaliland clans that also inhabit parts of the Somali state of Ethiopia.
Sources: Press of semi-autonomous Somalilandpress