ANKARA (AA) – As Moro Muslims inked a peace deal with the Manila government to end a decades-long armed conflict in the southern Philippines, the leader of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has played a significant role in the peace process.
Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim, one of the MILF founders, has been leading the group since 2003. He is the most important figure behind the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
Born on May 2, 1948, in Maguindanao province of the Autonomous Region in the Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) region in the southern Philippines, Ebrahim started studying in a family-operated madrasa (Muslim school) in the Barangay Katidtuan village of the Kabacan municipality in the province of Cotabato.
While continuing his Koranic studies at the madrasa, Ebrahim went to a regular high school in the region.
At the age of 13, Ebrahim lost his father and mother but he continued his study with the help of some well-to-do relatives.
He enrolled at the Catholic-run Notre Dame University in Cotabato to study civil engineering.
– Quits university study and joins MNLF
At university, Ebrahim became involved in the Moro Muslims' independence movement and met Nur Misuari and Hashim Salamat, the leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
At the age of 22, he left university one semester short of getting his civil engineering degree and became actively involved in the MNLF.
Shortly thereafter, Ebrahim was designated as the MNLF’s zonal field commander and became known as Murad.
He undertook several important positions in the MNLF before he formed of a breakaway group, with Salamat, in 1977.
Salamat became the leader of the New MNLF formation that was founded on the motivation of independence of the Bangsamoro region.
– Forms MILF and becomes head of the group
In 1984, the group officially changed its name to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in order to distinguish itself completely from the MNLF.
After Salamat died in 2003 of natural causes, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim became the MILF’s leader.
Ebrahim is seen as a more moderate figure than Salamat, and under his leadership, the peace negotiations in the region progressed significantly.
After a long-term negotiation, the MILF and the government signed the Memorandum of Agreement for Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which would have extended the 1996 ARMM boundaries and eventually replaced the ARMM completely.
The MILF officially dropped its demand for full independence in 2010, seeking regional autonomy instead.
In 2012, then President Benigno Aquino III and MILF leader Ebrahim signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) constituting a roadmap to a final settlement which would allow for an autonomous region administered by minority Muslims in the south of this predominantly Catholic country.
The MILF, under the leadership of Ebrahim, and the Manila government also signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in 2014.
The 2014 deal brought to a close 17 years of negotiations and ended a decades-old armed conflict in the country’s south.
On July 26, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law, the latest significant attempt by MILF leader Ebrahim and the Philippines government to end to nearly half a century of on-and-off conflict that has left more than 120,000 people dead and hampered development in the region.