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Pact raises hope for Moro reb unity

/ 12:01 AM July 03, 2016
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters gather inside their camp in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao province, on May 5, 2006, weeks before efforts to unify all Moro rebel groups culminated in the signing of an agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and an MNLF faction. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MIDNANAO

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters gather inside their camp in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao province, on May 5, 2006, weeks before efforts to unify all Moro rebel groups culminated in the signing of an agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and an MNLF faction. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MIDNANAO

COTABATO CITY—Two Moro groups born out of a split in a once powerful Moro rebel organization have reunited in ceremonies that their leaders said mark the start of a common struggle for Moro self-determination in Mindanao.

In a unity agreement, leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said they would work together to regain the Bangsamoro’s “lost freedom” and the Muslim minority’s right to self-determination and its share in peace, justice and development.

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MILF is composed of guerrillas who once belonged to the MNLF, then headed as one group by Moro leader Nur Misuari, but broke off over differences in peace talks with the Ramos administration. The MNLF has since splintered into three factions—one headed by Muslimin Sema, another by Misuari and the third headed by Lanao-based Moro leader Abul Khayr Alonto.

Murad Ebrahim, MILF chair, signed the unity agreement with the MNLF faction headed by Sema.

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The agreement seeks to support initiatives of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to unify all Moro groups in Mindanao.

Despite the absence of Misuari and Alonto in the agreement signing ceremony, Sema expressed confidence that the two Moro leaders would support efforts to unify all Moro rebel factions.

In June 2014, OIC sponsored a meeting of MNLF and MILF leaders in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, that led to the forming of the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF), a body that would facilitate the unification of all Moro rebel groups.

Sema said BCF members, who met thrice last year, had agreed on a common goal and set of objectives that would be presented to President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We are hopeful, as ever, that the new President will live up to our expectations,” said Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs.

Murad said while the government had agreed to compromise on several issues “to meet the Bangsamoro need for self-determination,” efforts to give flesh to this dream “ended up in frustration.”

He cited the failure by Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that would have expanded the powers of a new autonomous government in Mindanao that is provided for in a peace deal between MILF and the Aquino administration.

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Sema said the frustrating episodes of the struggle for peace and Bangsamoro self-rule could be attributed to a seeming insincerity of previous administrations.

He cited, for instance, the failure of the government to implement several provisions of the 1976 and 1996 peace pacts with MNLF.

Sema and Murad expressed belief that BCF’s plan to create a technical working group would help fuse together all accords signed by the government with MNLF and MILF. Charlie C. Senase, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Bangsamoro, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front
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