Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Who is to blame for the suffering and pain of the Ogaden people? /By: Mohamed A. Gurhan

One evening recently, I come behind the back of my 15 years old daughter Najma, unnoticed. She was seated in front of her computer writing what looked like a short school essay, which fully absorbed her young brain. “Why us?” Was the title of her narrative. She began with the following verse from an anonymous African poem: “Who is to blame for the suffering and pain?” I touched her shoulder and when she looked up at me, I could see from her bright innocent eyes that she was in a disturbed state of mind. When I asked her what was troubling her, she replied in a forlornly tone, “Don’t you know what is happening in our country, Ethiopia? Hundreds of children are starving to death everyday in Degahbur, Fik, Kebridehar, Gode, Warder, and other places. I am writing to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Secretary General Ban ki Moon, and other world leaders. Something must be done and somebody must do something! I am trying to do what I can.” She was trying to do what she could, indeed.

My daughter was not alone, three of her siblings and several other children from our area were discussing how they can help the United Nations and other relief organizations raise funds for the suffering children in Ethiopia’s Ogaden Region.

That evening I learned how badly, my daughter and many other ill-informed members of Somali Diaspora communities, were misled by the false accusations of political bias in news programmes of the many Somali diaspora operated mass media, mainly radio and television stations and websites.

My daughter motivated me to write this article, I also borrowed the title from the poem in her unfinished letter.

We all know, young and old, that there was and still are political crises and civil unrest in the Horn of African region, which strained hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Somali ethnic people to flee the region and seek refuge in almost every sympathetic country in the world. But, we should ask ourselves: what are the really and fundamental causes of these decades old exodus of the Somali masses? Who is responsible? Who is to blame for these endless havoc and political turmoil?

To answer the above stated questions accurately, we needs to study the political history, cultural tradition and society of that regions peoples. Although I will discuss these questions in my next article, here we will emphasize the resent crises of Ethiopia’s Somali Region (Ogaden).

Who is ONLF?

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) gained popularity on the international media on April 24, 2007, when its members attacked a Chinese-run oil field in Abole, Somali Region (Ogaden), killing approximately 65 Ethiopians and 9 Chinese nationals. In which, according to Inter Press Service, all persons killed by the ONLF were civilians.
The ONLF was founded in 1984 by a faction which split from the Western Somali Liberation Front and it’s youth wing WSLYU. Both WSLF and WSLYU were financed and controlled by the government of Somalia. However, until 1991 ONLF was only a group of handful men, who opposed the political abuse and misuse of Somalia and who had no clear political agenda, recognized leadership or support. Most of these men considered themselves as Ethiopian citizens, who wanted to struggle for their people’s rights within Ethiopia.

In 1991, when both governments of dictators Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia and Mohamed Siad Barre of Somalia were ousted, hundreds of thousands of refugees, originated from the Somali Region of Ethiopia, returned to their homeland.

In 1991 the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) forces advance on Addis Ababa and seize power. The state is renamed Ethiopia. His Hon. President Meles Zenawi and members of the transitional government pledged the formation of a multi-party democracy. Federal governance system, which empowers and allows the country’s nations and nationalities to establish their own regional governments, was introduced.

In December 1991, several hundreds of the Ogaden clan members held a conference at Gerigo’an and reestablished ONLF, electing a new leader, executive committee and central committee. Few of the original founders were present at the conference, but none of them was included in the new leadership. The conference was dominated by Arab trained Islamists and the remnants of Somalia’s army. Almost all of the central committee members were newcomers, who had little or no knowledge and interest to the country and people they joined.

Soon a dozen, mainly clan based, other political organizations, emerged in the region. Every Somali clan and its political party made their utmost preparations to participate and win the forthcoming regional and federal elections.

In 1992, the Somali regional elections were conducted in which ONLF won a vast majority of the regional parliament seats. Since there was no any other option for the Ogaden clans, and ONLF was the only political organ which bore their clan name, many supported it. ONLF in coalition with two other regional parties formed the first Somali Regional State government.

Thousands of the region’s jobless young men and women were employed. Schools, clinics, office building and many other construction projects carried out by the federal government were being implemented in every town of the region. Private businesses were booming. Relief and other humanitarian aid were abundantly following into the region. The average living standard of the region’s population improved tremendously. The positive effects of the political change brought by EPRDF, was evident everywhere in the Somali Region.

However, when the federal government was very involved in promoting the welfare and development of the Somali people, on the other hand, the ONLF led elected regional leaders, were busy not with the public duties and responsibilities endorsed upon them, but with their own other personal and political ambitions. They were divided into three or perhaps more groups, some fighting themselves over the region’s leadership, others busy with looting government funds and corruption involved regional government purchases, and still others were very busy with recruiting militia; proselytizing and organizing members; conducting false, illegitimate and unpopular referendum polls. It was evident from the beginning, that ONLF was incapable of running the regional government and that they will end up in rebellion.

Between 1992 and 1995, the federal government and in particular his Hon. President Meles Zenawi, called for and participated several Somali Region peace and development meetings and conferences, particularly targeting the Ogaden clans. Some of these meetings were even carried out confidentially behind closed doors. The major objective of these conferences was to thwart crises in the region and to accelerate development. However, ONLF was the stumbling block between the federal government and the Somali region’s Ogaden clans.

In 1993 and 1994, while ONLF was running the regional government business, on the other hand, their militia established road blocks in between the region’s main towns, denying road access to both private and public transport. Many times they collided with the EPRDF troops, after refusing road passage.

During that period EPRDF and the federal government were scrutinizing, giving more chances to ONLF to abandon their misleading and ill-fated political ambitions and accept gratefully the many opportunities availed to them.

In 1995, ONLF’s Islamist leader, the late Sheikh Ibrahim Abdalla, openly declared his organization’s pulling out of the regional parliament and government. At the same time he declared what he called liberation war on Ethiopia. That same year, ONLF entered into co’ operation agreement with AlItihad al Islamiya, another terrorist organization which is linked to Osama bin Laden’s Alqaida. Since then ONLF and their poorly trained and equipped militia, have been waging very low scale gorilla type warfare, denying humanitarian aid access, which only uprooted civilian nomads and worsened the living conditions of the region’s drought and famine victims.

The current situation of ONLF

The current leadership of ONLF is mostly the remnants of the collapsed government of Somalia. They are foreign intruders who have no roots, whatsoever, with the Somali Region of Ethiopia. For example: the chairman of ONLF, Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman, is a citizen of the Republic of Somalia, in which he served its marines for more than three decades and reach the rank of admiral. Later he was a central committee member of Siad Barre’s ruling socialist party. This year when the Somali operated Universal Television interviewed Admiral Osman, one of the questions asked was that of his nationality. In which he plainly replied that he was and still is a citizen of the Republic of Somalia. Then why is he mingling the internal affairs of an other country? “Every student resembles his teacher in one way or another”, says a Somali proverb. All they learned from their previous bosses in Somalia were aggression, waging selfish wars and destruction.

Action speaks louder than speech, the hateful, violent and destructive operations of ONLF, are enough evidence of their hidden evil agendas. The ONLF and their supporter’s misleading and false propaganda war, which they were waging against the Federal Government of Ethiopia and the Somali Regional State, is being reanalyzed and rejected by most of the regions people, both inside the country and in the Diaspora, and the international community as well.

According to anonymous internal ONLF sources, the so called retired admiral is now roaming around helplessly. His group members abroad are split into several factions and the gap of division and misunderstanding is widening too far. His mercenary militias back in the country are badly crippled by the military campaigns of the Federal Difence Army and the Region’s Special Police Forces and their remaining helpless and scattered small groups are no longer under his control. His Asmara trained militia leader, Abdikarim Sheikh Muse, is no longer obedient to him but instead is taking orders directly from his Asmara sponsors. Most of the Ethio-Somali Diaspora communities, who were previously supporting him financially, are now turning their backs on him.

Constant civilian massacre and other inhuman atrocities are committed by ONLF militia against the helpless Ogaden nomads in the rural areas. Therefore, ONLF is not popular liberation movement as they claim, but rather a foreign mercenary terror group.

The leaders of ONLF and their supporter are to be blamed for the suffering and pain of the Somali people (Ogaden) of Ethiopia. And when the day comes, they will be brought to justice and punished for the many crimes they committed against the people of Ethiopia.

Mohamed A Gurhan

FG: Qoraagu xaq ayuu u leeyahay in uu muujiyo fikirkiisa ku aadan talada ummadiisa, saxaafaduna waxay saxaafad ku tahay in ay soo bandhigto fikirka kala duwan ee ummada.

By Rasaas