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Arbegnoch Ginbot 7opposition leaders return home today to a warm welcome

Next election is not a priority for Arbegnoch Ginbot 7
The leaders expressed willingness to with all opposition groups

Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 leaders
Berhau Nega (left) and Andargachew Tsige (right) after arrival at Bole International Airport
Photo : EBC

September 9, 2018

Arbegnoch Ginbot 7 movement is one of the leading Ethiopian opposition groups. It has been struggling to bring about democratic change in Ethiopia and has been employing both armed and non-violent strategies to achieve its goal.

Berhanu Nega, chairman of the movement, and Andargachew Tsige, secretary, were sentenced to death in absentia. In 2014, the secretary of the movement was abducted from Yemen on his way to Eritrea, where the base of the armed wing of the movement was training and operating from and was put on death row and in solitary confinement at least for a year.

This year, Andargachew was released from prison following major leadership change within the ruling party – a process which brought the current prime minister Abiy Ahmed to the front stage to undertake major political reforms in terms of broadening the political space in the country.

It started with releasing political prisoners and Andargachew Tsige was released, though his release specifically caused acute controversy from within the ruling party.

Then, prime minister Abiy Ahmed called on all armed opposition groups to end their armed struggle and return to Ethiopia for a peaceful and legal struggle.

Arbegnoch Ginbot 7(AG7) responded positively, like three other armed opposition groups, to the call for peaceful struggle after evaluating that the political situation in Ethiopia is conducive for a peaceful struggle.

When prime minister Abiy Ahmed visited the United States in late July and early August, he and his team had a closed meeting with leaders of AG7( Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsige among others).That is when leaders of the movement reportedly negotiated with government on conditions of ending their armed struggle; one of which was support for the reintegration of armed rebel groups based in Eritrea after closure of military camp.

Last week, AG7 fighters returned to Ethiopia after laying down their arms and closing military camp in Eritrea and the Ethiopian government unveiled a project in the office of the prime minister to reintegrate and demobilize rebel fighter forces.

The return to Ethiopia

After years in exile, Berhanu Nega returned to Ethiopia as a freeman to lead a political movement for the creation of a democratic Ethiopia. He was accompanied by Andargachew Tsige. 250 other members of the movement also arrived in the country in the someday.

Berhanu and Andargachew were greeted at Bole International Airport by Restu Yirdaw who Federal government minister for Youth and Sports and other senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is, among others.

“I am happy to return home following the change in Ethiopia,” Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation cited Berhanu as saying.

Berhanu Nega has also expressed the willingness and readiness of his party to work with all opposition groups in the country to bring about lasting change in Ethiopia.

Ensuring functionality of democratic institutions including Election Board need to be given priority rather than counting the days for the next election, for Berhanu Nega.

Welcome ceremony at Addis Ababa Stadium

AG7 has strong and growing support base among the youth in urban areas in many parts of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa City was decorated since about week ago with the Ethiopian flag which the Ethiopian government outlawed in the past.

Although unclear if it was planned intentionally, the return of AG7 leaders to Ethiopia coincided to the eve of Ethiopian New Year.
The party’s support base in Addis Ababa is larger which explains the warm reception at Addis Ababa Stadium which was packed to capacity.

Appointed mayor of the city, Takele Uma, attended the ceremony. Berhanu Nega was the elected mayor of Addis Ababa before he was arrested by the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s administration soon after the 2005 election.

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