Ethiopia rebels declare ceasefire for UN visit

Rebels in Ethiopia’s volatile east declared a unilateral ceasefire so the United Nations can investigate their claims of human rights abuses in the region.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front rebels, ethnic Somalis who have been fighting the government for more than a decade, said they will only defend themselves if attacked.

”We want to give every hand to the UN mission so that the Ethiopian government does not find an excuse to interfere, so that they [the UN] can do a thorough investigation about what’s happening in the Ogaden,” Abdulrahman Mahdi, spokesperson for the ONLF, told the Associated Press in a telephone interview on Sunday.

Ethiopian officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mahdi said the ceasefire will last as long as the UN is in the Ogaden, which is near the Somali border. The 14-person UN mission arrived in the region last week.

Ethiopia announced a crackdown on the rebels in June, two months after the ONLF attacked a Chinese-run oil exploration field, killing 74 people.

The ONLF is fighting to overthrow the government for what it says are human rights abuses and to establish greater autonomy. The ONLF has accused Ethiopia of blockading aid to their region, which the government denies.

Last week, aid agency Médecins sans Frontières accused the government of denying it access to ”vulnerable civilians living in that area”.

Ethiopian authorities also have ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross to stop work there, accusing the group of talking to rebels operating in the area. — Sapa-AP

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