Ethiopia’s government is holding secret negotiations with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an outlawed separatist group, Ethiopia Observer learnt. As the ruling party’s internal vulnerabilities has increased due to home grown protests, the regime has made the secret approach for talk on the status of the contested Ogaden region with ONLF that it has once labelled as a terrorist organization. The framework for negotiations was agreed during initial meeting a month ago in Dubai and the principal meeting is due in the coming weeks in Nairobi, according to the sources. The ruling party was represented at the talks by General Gabre, the commander of the Ethiopian military forces in Somalia, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, president of Somalia regional government, and the ONLF delegation was led by Abdirahman Mahdi, ONLF head of foreign affairs. Founded in the early 1980s, the ONLF aims to create an independent state in Ethiopia’s southeastern Ogaden territory, which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Somalis. In 2011, Addis Ababa labelled ONLF a terrorist organization, alongside al-Shabab and al-Qaida. Abdikarim Sheikh Muse, a top member of ONLF, was handed over to Ethiopian authorities on August 28, 2017 after he was detained by Somali security forces in the central Somali town of Galkayo.
Repeated attempts for peace talks in the past have failed, including a high-profile meeting hosted by Kenya’s government on October 2012.