The government of Ethiopia on Saturday officially welcomed erstwhile armed opposition group, the Oromo Liberation Front, OLF, back to the country to pursue peaceful political struggle.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, tweeted a message that read in part: “We welcome warmly the leadership & members of OLF to Ethiopia. A peaceful contest of ideas will move us from a culture of conflict into a culture of peace.
“In a pluralistic society, all of us need to respect our rich diversity. Rule of law is the virtue that makes peace possible,” his tweet added. It was accompanied by two photos, one of the OLF leader Dawud Ibsa and the crowd that received him at the Meskel Square in Addis Ababa.
— FANA BROADCASTING C (@fanatelevision) September 15, 2018
Earlier in the day, state affiliated media reported that thousands of OLF soldiers had crossed over into the country from their base in Eritrea.
PM Abiy and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki had on September 11 (Ethiopian New Year) opened borders closed over decades during a standoff between Asmara and Addis Ababa.
OLF are the second Eritrea-based opposition group to return to the country to pursue peaceful political struggle. The first was the Patriotic Ginbot 7 led by Berhanu Nega. PG7 fighters returned in early September before their leadership joined about a week later.
OLF leadership have already announced a merger with the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC, to represent the interest if the Oromo people – Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and a key force behind anti-government protests.
The protests led to a government shake-up that brought PM Abiy Ahmed to the helm. Abiy, himself an Oromo, has undertaken neck-breaking reforms across the political, democratic and economic landscape of the country.
He has also successfully negotiated an end to what was one of Africa’s longest running political, diplomatic and security standoff – the July 9 peace deal with Eritrea has dramatically transformed relations between countries in the hitherto volatile Horn of Africa region.