Yes, we want more au­ton­omy for our re­gion, gen­uine self-rule.”

The East African - - OUT­LOOK -

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

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