By Addis Getachew
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Thousands of people thronged the Ethiopian capital on Saturday to welcome Dawud Ibsa, leader of the once-banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
The group was once dubbed as terrorist by the government but after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office he publicly apologized to them.
“We will be part of the peaceful struggle,” Dawud Ibssa told a massive crowd that welcomed him.
He said his party wholeheartedly succumbs to reform measures underway in the country, which he claimed were a result of the struggle launched by Oromo youths known as “qerroo” and young people all over Ethiopia.
The OLF is a political organization established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to lead the national liberation struggle of the Oromo people against what they perceived as “Abyssinian colonial rule”.
The OLF had in 2001 suffered a split at the top echelons resulting in Ibsa opting to fight the ruling EPRDF -- a four-party coalition which until recently was led by a single party known as the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
In April, Ahmed announced a general amnesty for groups which had raised arms against the government and urged exiled leaders to return to the country and push for a peaceful solution.
Leaders of the other OLF faction – which later changed the name of their party to Oromo Democratic Front – such as Lencho Leta and Dima Negeo came back to Ethiopia earlier heeding the call.
Analysts say that with the return of Ibsa, the last bastion of armed struggle in Ethiopia has come to an end.