Ethiopian rebels call for Kenyan mediation

November 4th, 2006 Print Print Email Email

NAIROBI, Nov 4 (Reuters) – An Ethiopian rebel group that has waged a three-decade insurgency said on Saturday it wants neighbouring Kenya to mediate between it and the government.The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) has fought for independence for the southern Oromo region since 1974, alleging discrimination against Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.

Kenya hosted talks between Khartoum and south Sudan’s rebels, and on Saturday the OLF said it also wanted Kenyan help.

“We have asked the Kenyan government to help us resolve this as they did with Sudan. They have the experience to help with mediation,” Fido Ebba, OLF’s head of diplomacy, told Reuters.

Ebba said his group also wanted Kenya to raise the OLF’s concerns at the regional body, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and at the African Union.

He said Kenya had not yet responded to the OLF request.

The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says the rebels are terrorists supported by Ethiopia’s arch-foe Eritrea.

Ebba denied his movement was being armed by Asmara.

“The Eritreans are our friends. We have been working with them for a long time,” he said.

“They understand the Oromo cause is genuine, and they support us. We don’t get much material support, but sympathy and understanding. But they are not arming us.”

Ebba also denied the OLF was supporting the newly powerful Islamists in neighbouring anarchic Somalia.

“This is Ethiopian propaganda to get the West to isolate the OLF,” he said. “We oppose religious extremism. In fact, we worry this extremism could enter our country and divide our society.”

Addis Ababa supports Somalia’s weak, Western-backed interim government, which is increasingly threatened by the Islamists.

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