Yes, we want more autonomy for our region, genuine self-rule.”
Arebel group in Ethiopia plans to demand a referendum on self-determination for the country's troubled, gas-rich Somali region during landmark peace talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government.
The plan by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which has staged a low-level insurgency in Ethiopia's east for more than three decades, comes as Dr Abiy invites oncebanned opponents to take part in elections. The demands may aggravate a scramble for the region's energy resources, including natural gas reserves the government estimates will eventually earn it $7 billion a year. At stake are an estimated eight trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Ogaden Basin, where exports are due to begin 2021 via a pipeline to neighbouring Djibouti. A unit of China Poly Group has also started testing oil deposits.
"We want to achieve self-determination recognised by international law under the current Ethiopian constitution," Ahmed Yassin Abdi, the ONLF'S foreign secretary said by phone from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. "We want our people to have a right to decide."
He said his group has no preconditions for the talks. The region's new president expressed support for greater autonomy. Ahmed Yassin Abdi, ONLF foreign secretary