Dissident Ethiopian group to return home


Leadership of an exiled Ethiopian dissident group previously outlawed by 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 government in 2009 under an anti-terrorism law rights watchdogs said was used indiscriminately to silence dissent.

The organisation is led by Berhanu Nega, an economics professor and former mayor-elect of Addis Ababa.

The group “has come to the conclusion the reforms taking place in Ethiopia 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.”

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

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

Also removed from the list were Oromo Liberation Front and the Ogaden National Liberation Front – movements that sought self-determination in the 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 including releasing thousands of jailed dissidents and moves to open the economy to private sector players.

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