Aug 09, 2010

Ogaden: Ethiopia’s False Treaty with False Representatives

Ethiopia’s recent negotiations and peace settlement with a Ogadeni Diaspora group who claimed to represent a group they had no influence over has led to widespread displeasure across the Ogaden territory and questions about Ethiopia’s commitment to really addressing the issues in the Ogaden.

Below is an article published by Ogaden Online:

The Somali speaking population in the Ogaden region have suffered enormously under the tyranny of successive Ethiopian regimes. This region was transferred to Ethiopia in 1884 (in three stages) without the consent and the knowledge of the people who inhabited. From 1884 to this day, the local Somalis have been instigating an insurrection for self-determination. The region is the source of one of the most violent political conflicts in postcolonial Africa. It was the scene of superpower manipulation of the crisis in Africa during the Cold War era. Indeed, many wars have been fought, many lives have been lost, hundreds of thousands have been displaced, and prosperities have been destroyed in an effort by the Ethiopian government to deny our people’s most basic right to be the masters of own destiny and to attain durable peace with justice.

Our people know some things about the conditions of oppressed people. The experiences of marginalization, oppression and denial of our God-given rights have taught us all many important lessons including predicting the intentions of our oppressor even before it is executed. For far too long, we have experienced disillusionments and have learned the pitiable tactics of our enemy. Successive Ethiopian governments have made many promises of allowing our people to decide their own fate—usually during the periods of national elections or transitions—but those promises have been broken numerous times during periods of forgetfulness. 

In what can only be characterized as a theater of absurdity, the Ethiopian government started the latest episode with a comical play with UWSLF, an insurgent group with no significant firepower and nominal cohorts. UWSLF’s stated goals originally were ‘to liberate Soomaali Galbeed (the Ogaden) and restore the dignity of Somalis who have been brutalized by successive Ethiopian regimes. Without achieving their goal and without any concessions from the government, UWSLF has decided to throw in the towel. This is after they have spent 18 years fighting and shedding the blood of so many of our sons and daughters who sacrificed their lives in order to achieve the stated goal of liberation.  Never have we seen such travesty and abandonment of a cause invested so much by so many. 

Not to be outdone, a group of Diaspora-based, Khat-chewing individuals initiated a communication with the Ethiopian government and requested a show of their own. This group led by a once ONLF member, Salahudin Mo’aw insisted this performance to be staged in Washington DC. It was bad enough for the Ethiopian government to spend so much of its resources on a nominal insurgent group, it is far worse to spend significant resources (by a country that are dependent on foreign aid) and time on individuals without military wing and without supporters. The question one asks is, what peace can few individuals with no followers bring for the Ethiopian government? A more pointed question is, what conflict can this group prevent? Ethiopia’s intentions are clear: it is the same drama that we have seen so many times. It’s a classic divide and rule. If Ethiopia thinks these groups will endanger the Somali cause, it is mistaken. Yes, few people may misunderstand our cause as a result of this manipulation. But our cause would only be misunderstood by those who want to misunderstand. Instead of entering a genuine and negotiated peace process with the region’s stakeholders, Ethiopia opted for disingenuous and a loosing effort of organizing factitious groups without any clout. Without a doubt, Ethiopia’s ill-advised strategy of trying to de-legitimize the legitimate cause of our people will backfire. 

The implementation of justice is the most successful path to achieving durable peace. One cannot achieve peace without justice. One can also not implement development without peace. The three are interconnected and its starts with justice! 

No group desires peace more than our people. We are the victims of the most horrendous and vicious cycle of violence perpetuated by the Ethiopian government and its ‘janjaweed’ like militia in the Ogaden. We are denied of our right to live in peace with justice, the right to education for our children. And when we protest, we are called vile names such as ‘anti-peace’ and ‘anti-development’.  In all things and in everyplace, our ways are blocked! Yes, we are angry. There are ample reasons for our anger. The torments of our past are unforgettable and almost impossible to overcome. 

If Ethiopia is serious about resolving this conflict, there is a clear blueprint that will lead the entire Horn of Africa in to peace and prosperity. Today’s conflict, violations of our basic rights, and all of our grievances, which have existed over a century, can be transcend only if Ethiopia and our people mutually retrace the steps to our present condition. Our people are ready. Is Ethiopia ready?

Lasting peace, like the renewal of lost romance, can be achieved only through genuine and mutual peace processes mediated by creditable third-party and consistent with international standards of negotiations—especially with such complex conflict like the one in the Ogaden. Our people have always been ready to find a solution to this conflict. What is necessary from the Ethiopian government is a political commitment to tackle this international conflict head-on with sincerity. So far, we have only seen bizarre and deceitful actions from the Ethiopian government.