Wednesday November 21, 2018
ADDIS ABABA (HOL) - After decades of deadly armed fighting with the Ethiopian army, hundreds of Somali-ethnic rebel fighters arrived home Wednesday following a peace deal with the government as hundreds of cheering people welcomed them into the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The once-banned ONLF rebel group which has been fighting for an autonomy for the Ogaden region which the government considers a region under the new federal system for decades has signed a peace deal with the new government under the reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed, ending their bloody rebellion against the government which killed thousands of people since 1994.
The group’s fighters have since came out of the jungle and started leaving their bases in the neighboring Eritrea which also signed a historic peace deal with its former archrival Ethiopia, ending life in exile and agreed to lay down arms to return to a society they barely recognize.
As they arrived in Addis Ababa, the ONLF rebel fighters with their AK47 guns slung by their shoulders headed into a large hall and listened elevating speeches by army commanders who highlighted the importance of their return, telling them “Welcome back to your home” amid applause by the cheering fighters.
But reintegrating thousands of fighters including many who have spent at least half their lives into the society which had long considered them a key enemy will be a crucial but uneasy task for the government of Mr. Ahmed which signed strings of peace agreements with all rebel groups that had been fighting against the government for years.
Under the historic agreements with rebel groups and Eritrea, the Ethiopian government has handed back a territory claimed by Eritrea of its ownership, pardoned all rebel fighters, released political prisoners and dropped corruption charges against rebel leaders.