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Dissident Ethiopian group to return home amid reforms

Wednesday August 1, 2018
By Aaron Maasho

A unit of ONLF rebels move from one location to another after being surrounded for a week on a hill top. Jonathan Alpeyrie . Wiki Commons

NAIROBI, Aug 1 (Reuters) - The leadership of an exiled Ethiopian dissident group previously outlawed by the government has announced plans to return home in the wake of reforms led by new premier Abiy Ahmed.

Patriotic Ginbot 7 was labelled a "terrorist movement" by the government in 2009 under an anti-terrorism law that rights watchdogs have said has been used indiscriminately to silence dissent.

The group "has come to the conclusion that the reforms taking place in Ethiopia have formed a situation that enables the organisation to return to the country and provide its own contribution," it said in a statement.

"The organisation's leadership will return to Ethiopia within a month and officially launch its political activities."

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Most of its senior leadership is based in the United States with some in European countries.

The announcement follows a parliament ruling in July that removed Patriotic Ginbot 7 from the government's list of banned groups.

Also removed from the list were Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front - movements that have sought self-determination in Ethiopia's Oromiya and Somali regions.

It follows the release of Andargachew Tsige, Patriotic Ginbot 7's secretary-general who has British citizenship and was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009. He was arrested in Yemen five years later and extradited to Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Abiy, who took office in April, is championing widespread reforms in the nation of 100 million people which have included release of thousands of jailed dissidents and moves to open the economy to private sector players.

Abiy has acknowledged and condemned abuses by security forces, likening it to state terrorism. Ethiopia has also forged peace with sworn enemy Eritrea, ending a lengthy military standoff that followed a 1998-2000 border war in which 80,000 people are thought to have died.

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