The Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF, are set to return to Ethiopia on Wednesday, the Voice of America’s Somali service reported on Monday.
Leadership of the group are due to return on Wednesday, November 21, the report said. ONLF spokesperson told the VOA that their forces were going to be airlifted from Asmara to Jijiga, capital of Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State, SRS, on the said date.
The group recently signed a peace deal with the Ethiopian federal government in the Eritrean capital, Asmara, where they have been based.
As part of the deal “The two sides have reached a historical agreement regarding the political rights of the people from Somali Regional State and genuinely addressing the root causes of the conflict between ONLF and the Ethiopian government,” ONLF said in a tweet.
As at the last meeting, there was also the announcement of a joint committee established for further discussions. The government team was led by foreign affairs chief, Workneh Ghebeyehu whiles the ONLFdelegation was led by Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman.
The first round of talks between the two parties was in September this year. Months earlier the Ethiopian parliament had struck them off a list of terrorist organizations whiles they also called a ceasefire.
Key facts about the ONLF rebels:
- Group was formed in 1984 amid a resurgence of separatist sentiment in the ethnically Somali Ogaden region on Ethiopia’s border with Somalia.
- Ethiopia had accused the ONLF of being terrorists supported by Eritrea, and launched a military offensive against the group.
- The military action followed a rebel attack on a Chinese-run oil field that killed more than 70 people.
- The insurgents’ aims have varied over time, ranging from full-scale independence to joining a “Greater Somalia”, to more autonomy within ethnically diverse Ethiopia.
- ONLF fighters, who do not wear uniforms and are estimated to number several thousand.
- They take advantage of their close ties with the area’s largely nomadic communities.
- After hit-and-run attacks on military convoys, they often melt into villages and hide among herders when counter-attacks are threatened.
About the Ogaden region
The Ogaden region is almost entirely populated by Muslim, Somali-speakers. The region has kept its own distinctive identity, doing the bulk of its trade with Somaliland, Somalia and the Middle East rather than the rest of “highland” Ethiopia.
The separatist cause has been fuelled by widespread resentment at the region’s low level of development.
Until Chinese engineers arrived late last year, the entire region had only 30 km (20 miles) of tarmac road, all of it around the regional capital Jijiga. The area has also been battered by a succession of droughts and floods.