afrol News, 9 December - The Ethiopian government is hailing Kenya for its registration of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) as "an organised criminal body." Several OLF rebels have already been killed and arrested in Kenya.
According to the Addis Ababa Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenyan Minister of Internal Security, George Saitoti, already in the beginning of November added the OLF to the Ministry's list of organised criminal groups. After a passed 21-day deadline to challenge the listing in the Kenyan High Court, the OLF listing is now definite.
As no person or group applied for the OLF's removal from the list within the required three weeks, the Oromia rebel group has now joined the thirty three other groups which the government of Kenya has identified as criminal bodies. These include foreign groups such as Somalia's Al Shabaab and the Taliban and local gangs such as the Baghdad Boys and the Mungiki Movement.
The OLF listing had come after long pressure from Ethiopian authorities, which accuse the rebels, fighting for the independence of Ethiopia's populous south-central Oromia region, of "planting of bombs and the murder of civilians."
Addis Ababa therefore hailed the Kenyan government. "It is a clear demonstration of Kenya's commitment to security issues and underlines the close diplomatic and security relationship that exists between Kenya and Ethiopia," a Foreign Ministry press release said. Ethiopia itself has outlawed the OLF and lists it as a "terrorist group."
The new Kenyan listing of the OLF is already leading to new tension. Kenyan armed forces last week attacked several OLF rebels having entered Kenyan territory on a raid against Oromians opposing the rebels. Kenyan troops confirmed that five OLF rebels were killed in the confrontation.
This week, Kenyan police stormed a wedding ceremony in Huruma and arrested three alleged top commanders of the OLF. The assumed OLF leaders posed "a security threat" to Kenya, it was said, and were wanted for organised crime in Ethiopia. An extradition to Ethiopia was being considered.
A larger raid in Nairobi, targeting illegal immigrants from Somalia and Ethiopia, has also been seen in connection with the fight against groups now listed as "organised criminal bodies" in Kenya. More than 300 foreigners were arrested in Nairobi this week.
Especially since the escalation of the Oromia conflict following Ethiopia's 2005 elections, the OLF has increasingly operated on both sides of the Kenyan border. While there have been several deadly confrontations between the OLF and Kenyan troops, Kenya has not yet made any serious effort to root the Ethiopian rebels out from its territory.
According to Kenyan media reports, insecurity in northern Kenya due to occasional OLF raids has left several hundred civilians fleeing their homes and several schools to be closed.
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