Thursday, August 10, 2006

Ethiopia rebels 'ready for talks'

Separatist rebels in Ethiopia say it is untrue that they are not willing to talk peace with the government.

Ethiopian troops are currently engaged in a big operation to flush out Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels near the border with Somalia.

The ONLF chairman told the BBC that it was the government that was hindering dialogue and he denied accusations that his fighters were killing civilians.

Analysts say that in recent months ONLF forces have strengthened significantly.
They have reportedly been receiving help from Eritrea and from Somali Islamists.
In response, the Ethiopian army has deployed thousands of troops to the desolate region and there have been heavy causalities on both sides.


The Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia shares a long and porous border with Somalia, and most of its people are of the Somali ethnic group.

Last week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said that attempts at dialogue brokered by Somali elders between his government and the ONLF had failed.

He claimed the elders had subsequently requested the offensive.
But the ONLF's Admiral Mohammed Omar Osman said the government had sent mediators who were biased and that the current crackdown was "nothing new".
Correspondents say the region's pastoral nomads have borne the brunt of the fighting as the government and ONLF rebels accuse each other killing members of the public.

"Our policy is not to fight the same people we're fighting for," Admiral Osman told the BBC.
"The people in Ogaden are the backbone of the our struggle. They give us the milk and food we need as well as nurse our injured," he said.

He said that any civilians who had been killed had been armed by the Ethiopian government. When asked if the ONLF were being armed by Eritrea and Somalia, Admiral Osman said that any group that supported their cause was a friend.

The ONLF took up arms against Mr Meles' government in the early 1990s demanding independence for Ogaden because of what they said were injustices in the region.

source:BBC news


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