Sep 11, 2017

Ogaden: ONLF in a Stranglehold: In Between Security Rationale and Reality

Photo courtesy of Horn Observer

On 23 August 2017, Mr Abdikarin Sheikh Muse, an executive committee member of ONLF, was arrested by Somali forces  while he was accompanying his young niece to Mogadishu, Somalia. He then was forcefully transferred to Ethiopia, even though his Somali citizenship should guarantee him state protection. The Somali state justifies the victim’s extradition by instrumentalising a securitarian discourse, accusing ONLF of being affiliated to the terrorist organisation Al-Shabab, whole the organisation grieves losses perpetrated by Al-Shabab’s violence. In this recent press release published by the ONLF, the organisation calls for Mr Abdikarin Sheikh Muse’s liberation and sheds light on international and national laws violations this situation entails, while recalling the efforts it has made to undertake peaceful negotiations with Ethiopia.

Below is a press release issued by the ONLF:

On September 6, 2017 the minister of information of Somalia read a statement in which he claimed that ONLF has a relationship with Al-Shabab and was involved in Activities that are endangering the Security of the Somali Republic. This disinformation exercise by Mr Kheyre’s cabinet was reached in order to justify the illegal rendition of Mr Abdikarin Sh. Muse an ONLF executive member living in Mogadishu for the last three years.

The decision read by the Minister was based on the so-called agreements between representatives of Galmudug Regional State and puppet administration in Jigjiga (Ogaden) with regards to cooperate in fighting ONLF and Al-Shabaab. Furthermore, as the Minister stated this decision was intended to safeguard the security and wellbeing of Somalia and the neighbouring states. He also stated that the Cabinet bans any armed group to use Somalia as base to threaten the security of neighbouring countries.

ONLF categorically rejects these accusations regarding relationship with Al-Shabab or engaging in armed activities in or originating from Somalia.   ONLF has never engaged in or conducted any activity in Somalia that will pose a threat to either the Somali people or their government and as matter of policy doesn’t conduct any military activities outside the Somali territory under Ethiopian rule. In fact, ONLF members have been on many occasions killed, detained or handed over to Ethiopian by the regional warlords or Al-Shabab but has never retaliated against them by choice in order to respect the fabric of Somali Unity and not to fuel the already volatile situation in Somalia or to be diverted from its vision and mission.

The continued assertion that ONLF has a relationship with Al-Shabab, which is often TPLF instigated propaganda has no basis in reality. Al-Shabab tried to infiltrate into Ogaden in 2009 and actually killed five ONLF fighters who were not aware of their presence close to the Somalia border. ONLF sent a message to them ordering them to leave the Ogaden immediately. They refused and attacked the Ogaden Liberation Army which forced them out of the territory and ever since has been keeping them from re-entering it. Subsequently Al-Shabab decided to kill every ONLF member they found in Somalia. ONLF’s former Defence Secretary Mr Illias Sh. Ali, three central committee members and scores of senior and junior officers summarily executed by Al-Shabab.

In addition, ONLF always supported the fledging transitional governments in Somalia and persuading those it had influence on to be always on the side of the Somali government. ONLF has congratulated all presidents during the transitional period since 1991 including the current president.

ONLF is a national liberation organisation that struggles for the right of self-determination of Somali people under Ethiopian rule. ONLF was founded in 1984 after Western Somali Liberation Front floundered. It was formed to continue the centuries long struggle of the Somali nation to regain the sovereignty of the Somali people that was lost during the colonial scramble for Africa. A struggle that has never stopped and was waged under many different names and banners. The Dervishes, Somali Youth League (SYL), Nasrallah, and the Geeshka, the Somali republic and the Somali Democratic Republic. The shared vision of the Somali nation to restore their freedom had succeeded in liberating British and Italian Somalilands. After the Somali republic collapsed, the quest for the rights of Somali people that were left out continued and the independent Somali people wholeheartedly supported and still support their oppressed brethren in Ethiopia.

Ever since the collapse of the Somali government, the TPLF regime in Ethiopia has been actively engaged in destroying the sacred bond between the Somali people fostered through the millennia by shared ancestry, culture and economic symbiosis. And to do that TPLF has been consistently destabilizing Somalia and sponsoring the inclusion of its agents into all the transitional governments of Somalia. Therefore, ONLF believes this act by the cabinet is a continuation of that policy and the decision by the Somali cabinet is a proof of that interference and influence.

The minister stated that the cabinet decision was legal and was based on the laws of the land and agreements reached with Ethiopia. That is far from the truth. It just shows the lack of knowledge by the current administration in Somalia of both the laws of Somalia, African Union (AU), Intergovernmental Authority on Development(IGAD) and International Laws and conventions.

First of all, there is no actual agreement between the Somali republic and Ethiopia regarding extradition. Somalia never even signed the IGAD convention on Extradition, which if signed both governments would have violated.  However, the cabinet claimed that local agreements signed between representatives of Galmudug region of Somalia and the Somali regional administration under Ethiopian rule reached in order to resolve massacres committed by the Liyu Police against Somali clans inside the Ogaden related to Galmudug clans in Somalia. The minister stated that government used those agreements to ‘extradite’ Mr Muse legally to Ethiopia. However, the two representatives of the Galmudug region people, who signed those agreements rejected those assertion as reported by the BBC and VOA Somali services. Furthermore, the cabinet ignored in its legal considerations Article 12 on Application of the Fundamental Rights recognised by the Somali state.

The Issue of Mr Muse’s rendition is a violation of both the Somali constitution, the AU, UN and Geneva Convention regarding both the Human and political rights of Mr Muse. Apart from his legal rights as Somali citizen by birth. The constitution of Somalia gives Mr Muse clear legal rights that the Cabinet has denied him. ONLF bases that assertion on the followings: 

1. Mr Abdikarin Sh Muse is Somali national and has served in the Somali national army and has a right to be protected by his people and state

2. Mr Muse has a right to his political opinion and the right to choose to support his people wherever they are

3. Mr Muse was dehumanised and maltreated during his detention as shown by the video and picture circulated in the social media, thus breaking Article 3 (4) and article 10 of the Somalia constitution 

4. The Somali Security arrested and handed over Mr Muse to Ethiopia without due process authorised by court breaking articles Article 34 on Access to Courts and Legal Defence, Article 35 on The Rights of the Accused and Article 127 on Principles for the Security Forces 

5. Mr Muse’s rendition was based on an administrative decision that did not respect both the laws of Somalia and regional and international conventions

6. Mr Muse was not given even the benefits of what the Somalia law says about extradition

7. Even if Mr Muse was not considered a Somali citizen he had a right as Refugee under Somalia constitution and article 37 which was ignored

8. Somalia never signed the IGAD extradition Treaty, however even if would have done so, the cabinet would have violated that too. Apart from all other rights IGAD convention gives states the right to refuse extradition if the issue is of a political nature or there is evidence of torture in the receiving state

The Somalia Cabinet not only violated the Somali constitution but in addition has violated the IGAD as well as the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of human rights. 

Regardless of whether the Somalia cabinet considered Mr Muse a Somali Citizen or not, all those rights in the Somali constitution, IGAD convention and international laws clearly show that the decision of the cabinet was illegal and has violated the laws of the Somalia. Mr Muse was not given a fair trial in courts of law with legal counsel in the countries of both offending parties, nor was he given the legal protection accorded either as a Somali citizen or as a political person. He was not protected in regard to the fact that he could be subject to degrading and dehumanising practices of the TPLF-led regime which are documented by the Human rights organisations. 

Concocting false accusations and claiming legality is unsuitable for representative of the Somali people and the religion, culture and unity, and dignity of the Somali nation. Many countries in the world, respecting their domestic and international laws allow ONLF leaders and communities to advocate for their rights. How is it acceptable then that ONLF members are to be hunted down and sold like slaves by their own kith and kin to an unrelenting enemy that even denies the Somali people under its rule to get proper treatment against pandemic diseases like cholera in time to prevent thousands of preventable deaths?

ONLF has been in negotiations with the Ethiopian government facilitated by Kenya which shows that it has genuinely tried to solve the conflict peacefully and if the Somali cabinet was really interested in a peaceful Horn of Africa it would have striven to expand that process and take part in finding a fair and lasting solution. As long as the rights of the Somali people under Ethiopian rule are not given their self-determination, peace in the Horn of Africa will be illusive and Somalia and Ethiopia will never have genuine peace, regardless of whether ONLF exists or not.

ONLF requests from the Somali people, government and Parliament, the AU and the UN to act on this matter and provide justice to Abdikarin Sh Muse and hold those responsible for this crime accountable. ONLF believes that is decision is an insult to the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who sacrificed their lives for attaining the rights and dignity of the Somali people and has violated the laws of Somalia and international laws and conventions. 

ONLF calls upon the Somali government to rectify its mistakes and start remedying the damage already done, including diplomatic efforts to return Mr Muse, taking back its illegal injunction against ONLF and its members. It is not the intention of ONLF to see the dignity. Unity and Sovereignty of the Somali people and government jeopardized but such decisions would endanger the safety and security of every Somali citizen wherever he or she maybe.

According to the Somali construction the sovereignty of the Somali nation resides with the Somali people. It incumbent upon the member of the Somali parliament to insure that the sovereignty, dignity and the rights of every Somali citizen is protected. If the right of a single Somali citizen is violated, the rights of every Somali citizen is violated.

ONLF thanks the Somali people and members of parliament for standing up for Mr Abdikarin muse and will continue to support their effort to get a genuine sovereign Somali government in Somalia.