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News: Benishangul Gumuz region releases two rebel groups’ leaders, members following peace accords

Members of the Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement. Photo: Benishangul Gumuz regional government

Addis Abeba – Benishangul Gumuz’s regional government releases leaders and members of two rebel groups, Gumuz People’s Democratic Movement (GPDM) and Benishangul People’s Liberation Movement (BPLM), following peace accords.

GPDM announced the release of over 370 of its leaders and members who were detained during different operations, while 70 leaders and members of BPLM were also released.

Harun Umer, Benishangul Gumuz Regional Police Commissioner, said that the leaders and members of the opposition political organizations were released through reconciliation and amnesty.

Benshangul Gumuz has been an epicenter for recurring attacks on civilians, displacements, and security crisis in the past four years. Armed groups, mobilizing in the region, have repeatedly attacked civilians, killing hundreds of people and displacing thousands from their villages.

For the past two years, most of the region has been under the command post of the Benishangul region and the federal government’s security forces as a result of brutal attacks by militants.

Six months ago, the regional government and GPDM, a rebel group militarily active in the region, signed a peace agreement to resolve their differences “through dialogue.”

The peace agreement was signed by the President of Benishangul Gumuz Regional state, Ashadli Hassan, and the Chairman of the GPDM, Giragn Gudetta at program held in Asossa, the region’s capital city. Ashadli said that the agreement reached was based on dialogue that that took into consideration and respect to the constitution.

The Chairman of GPDM, Giragn Gudetta, on his part expressed his satisfaction with the agreement reached and said that the rebel group was committed to discharge its part to make a dialogue-based development a reality at the time. He has called on all to cooperate so that the peace agreement can be brought on the ground to bring concrete results for the peace of the region, according to the communication bureau.

Despite the agreement, in March last year, an attack by armed militants claimed the lives of at least 20 civilians when a public bus traveling from Metekel to Guba was ambushed; dozens more were also injured. Officials blamed the attack on unnamed “anti-peace forces” infiltrating through Sudan, and had carried out similar attacks on civilians in the past.

In recent months following the attack, efforts were being exerted by local community members especially in Metekel, the region’s violence ravaged zone, to bring reconciliations and ebb the escalation of violence since 2020 that had resulted in mass displacements, indiscriminate killings, and property damage.

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The Benishangul Gumuz region said it has budgeted 2.5 million USD acquired from the World Bank for rehabilitation of internally displaced people and institutions destroyed due to security crisis in the region.

In parallel, Benishangul Gumuz regional government signed a peace agreement on 10 December with BPLM, an armed group that was operating in the border area of ​​the regional state, in Khartoum, Sudan. It is the second rebel group to have signed peace agreement with the regional government in the last two months.

The regional government had signed a peace accord in October last year in Assosa, the capital city, with another armed group, the Gumuz People’s Democratic Movement (GPDM), to resolve their problems through dialogue.

The peace agreement reached between the regional government and BPLM in Khartoum was expected to bring members of the armed group disarmed and rehabilitated to participate in peace building and development activities in the region.

However, the regional government did not provide details, such as the role of mediators, including that of Sudan’s for providing the venue, but it said that BPLM members were “warmly welcomed” from the Sudanese border area of Shirkole District, Gemed Kebelle, by the residents of Shirkole, Menge Homosha, Ura, Assosa and Bambasi districts. AS

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