Ethiopian armed opposition group Ginbot 7 suspends attacks

Group says it will call off assaults in order to support the agenda of new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

A demonstrator chants slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during celebrations for Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region
Thousands of people jailed after violent unrest broke out three years ago have been freed since January [Reuters]

Ethiopian opposition group Ginbot 7 has said that it will cease armed attacks in the country following reforms announced by the new government.

In a statement released on Friday on their Facebook page and confirmed by Ethiopian state media, Ginbot 7 said it would call off assaults in order to support the agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April.

“Our forces have received strict orders to refrain from any sort of armed resistance,” the statement said.

It added the decision “takes into full consideration our preparedness and determination to foil any attempt to derail the current change process by anti-change elements within EPRDF,” referring to Abiy’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.

Since being sworn in, Abiy has made major changes in the country including releasing jailed dissidents and moving to liberalise the economy.

Ginbot 7, formed after a disputed election in 2005 and named after the date in the Ethiopian calendar when the ballot took place – has claimed numerous deadly attacks in the past.

The authorities previously alleged association with the group as justification to imprison dissidents.

Last month, Ethiopia released from prison top Ginbot 7 officials, including Andargachew Tsige who was found guilty of violent attacks and sentenced in absentia in 2009 over his role in the opposition group.

Tsige was arrested during a stopover at a Yemen airport in June 2014 and taken to Ethiopia.

Prosecutors also dropped charges against the group’s leader Berhanu Nega, who is based outside Ethiopia and had in 2009 received a death sentence in absentia over an assassination plot.

Ginbot 7 fighters have previously based themselves in neighbouring arch-enemy Eritrea, which Abiy’s government is trying to reconcile with by implementing a long-ignored 2002 border demarcation.

Abiy has pursued rapprochement with several other overseas-based opposition groups.

Thousands of prisoners, including several senior opposition leaders, have been freed since January having been accused of charges such as violence or incitement to topple the government.

The pardons are part of reforms that the government has pledged to undertake after violent unrest broke out three years ago, sparked by an urban development plan for Addis Ababa that critics said would trigger land seizures in the surrounding Oromia region.

The protests broadened into rallies over political rights, leading eventually to the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in February.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies