02/23/2019, 08.09
PHILIPPINES
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Bangsamoro in Mindanao transferred into the hands of former MILF rebels

MILF leader Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim will lead the transition in BARMM, the autonomous Muslim region, which includes five provinces, three cities and 63 villages on the southern island of Mindanao. For President Duterte, the end point of the "road to peace" has been reached.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte handed over the reins of power in the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim (pictured), leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Yesterday in Manila, Duterte attended the symbolic swearing-in ceremony with which Murad became BARMM’s interim Chief Minister.

From now on, it will be up to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to guarantee peace and stability in the Muslim majority part of the island of Mindanao. For decades, the MILF fought for autonomy in an insurgency that cost the lives of 150,000 since the 1970s.

Murad will lead an 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which will govern the five-province Bangsamoro region until the election of the regular members of its Parliament in 2022.

The BARMM was created after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which followed negotiations between the central government and the MILF.

Conducted in two separate stages (21 January and 6 February 2019), a referendum approved the new region, which will consist of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, as well as the cities of Marawi, Lamitan, Cotabato and 63 villages of North Cotabato.

Mindanao Muslims came to the vote divided. The decision to pick he MILF, a predominantly ethnic Maguindanao group, to head the three-year transition period has fuelled resentment among other Muslim ethnic groups, most notably the Tausug, who have stated their preference for a federal structure, and the Maranao.

Others fear for religious freedom, which explains the initial distrust among Christians towards the BOL. Four days after the vote, Mindanao Catholic leaders expressed, however, support for the autonomy project, defining the law "the last concrete chance for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao".

Duterte and Murad have both expressed hope that Muslim autonomy will help to counter the rise of Islamic extremism in Mindanao.

"The road to peace may be long and rough, but I am glad that we've finally reached its end point," Duterte said during the swearing-in ceremony.

The BARMM “will be the realization of all our dreams and end long decades of armed struggle that hindered the growth of the region and I also consider my home,” Duterte added.

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