Brief history of ONLF
The Ogaden National Liberation Front is a separatist rebel group fighting for the right to self-determination for Somalis in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. The ONLF, established in 1984, demands for the autonomy of this region and has claimed responsibility for several attacks since the beginning of 1994 aimed at Ethiopian forces in the area, which the government considers a region under the new federal system. The area of the Ogaden region stretches at least about 330,000 square kilometers and has over 7 million people, mainly from the Absame Somali tribe. The ONLF claims that Ethiopia is an occupying government, despite the Ogaden being represented in the Ethiopian federal government by groups including the opposition Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP). The ONLF is composed mainly of members of the Ogaden clan.
Ethiopian Government and ONLF: Further Concessions or Compromise?!
ONLF was persisting to allow the Somali region and its people a referendum, whether they decide to be part of Ethiopia or not as stipulated article 39 of the Ethiopian constitution which adopted in 1995.
Ethiopia’s parliament on Thursday 5 July removed three groups from the country’s list of “terrorist” organizations in a bid to mend fences with the political opposition namely Ginbot 7, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)
On August 12, ONLF declared a unilateral ceasefire and some of its members have returned to Ethiopia. However, this is the first formal peace talk between ONLF and the Ethiopian government. There was before a meeting paving the way to direct talks which embarks in 18 September in Asmara during which both “parties have reached a common understanding on the issues discussed and way forward. They agreed to work together peacefully to protect the interests of the people of the Somali Region and collaborate on national issues including the future of Horn of Africa integration.”
The second meeting was 21 October, where Ethiopian government delegation led by Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu have signed a peace deal with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) delegation led by Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman in the Eritrean capital, Asmara. According to a statement from ONLF, “the two sides have reached a historical agreement regarding the political rights of the people from Somali Regional State and genuinely addressing the root causes of the conflict between ONLF and the Ethiopian government.”
The peace deal, the discussion of which was also attended by Ahmed Shide, Finance Minister and Chairman of the Somali People’s Democratic Party (SPDP), Mustafa Muhumed Omer, deputy president of the Somali regional state, Redwan Hussein, Ethiopia’s ambassador to Eritrea, as well as senior officials from ONLF, including secretary general Abdirahman Mahdi and foreign secretary Ahmed Yassin, also saw the establishment of “a joint committee to further discuss substantive issues pertaining to the root causes of the conflict in the Somali region through continuous engagement inside the country.
According to a one page statement released following the discussions. In addition to establishing a joint committee, both parties have agreed to “end hostilities toward each other” and for ONLF to “pursue its political objectives through peaceful means, with the assurance that the FDRE will respect and uphold the provisions of its constitution,” the statement added.
Bandwagon of ONLF across the region!
Since Ethiopian government was removed ONLF the terrorist group, ONLF embarks to visit the Somali region, and they are receiving warm welcome and applause from the indigenous people. The other incredible, they are celebrating while they are carrying on their flag and weapons across the region including FAAFAN, JARAR, QORAHEY, SHABELLE, DOOLO, NOGOB and other regions.
Public mood towards the bilateral agreement among ONLF and Ethiopia
Some people believe that, ONLF was reluctant to reach an agreement with the former president of Somali region his Excellency CMC and the former prime minister of Ethiopia Atto Males Zenawi. Because, if we look back the history, the previous administration led by Prime Minister Males was insisting by accepting ONLF the Ethiopian constitution before they sit together the negotiation table. So, what is the difference between the current administration which is leading by Atto Abiy Ahmed and his Excellency Mustafa Cagjar in the Somali region? Because, ONLF accepted to reach an agreement with the Ethiopian government without abnegating the Ethiopian constitution! Furthermore, when former president of the Somali region in Ethiopia, his Excellency Abdi Mohamud Omar known us (CMC) arrested in 27 august this year, ONLF delighted more than enough as they posted their official twitter by saying “today’s arrest of Abdi iley is a step in the right direction towards accountability and justice for all those who have suffered under his brutal dictatorship. He has left a bitter legacy of pain and suffering for which the noble people of the Ogaden region must be healed”.
Challenges ahead with ONLF
The Somali region is an oil rich region. So, the region is a hotspot area. If we observe a little bit the reason behind the disagreement between Abiy and CMC which finally leads to jail the president was , how to share the gas/oil , especially the quota which allocates the Somali region. Additionally, the other disagreement among the Prime Minister Abiy and CMC was the future of Liyuu Police. Abiy suggests terminating and firing the Liyuu Police and president CMC insists to sustain the Liyuu Police. So, ONLF encounters that hotspot issues, and their credibility among the Somali region depends on how they fix and confront those issues.
Limitations ahead ONLF
If we explain these words ONLF is, Ogaden National Liberation Front. In this regard, there are huge clans who reside in the region and withstand this name. So, there is a drastic need to make them accept this name. De facto, we can’t abnegate the majority conception. Ogaden clan, are the majority clan in the Somali region in Ethiopia. Patrons of ONLF say, this name comes from when Somalis reside in the region were fighting against the Ethiopian administration, the other Somali clans except Ogaden clan, withdrew the fighting. So, Ogaden clan insisted and dedicated to continue the struggle against the Ethiopian government lonely. In this respect, they decided to use this word Ogaden, as longest they are alone the fighting and they are the real and first victim in Ethiopian army brutality against the region. Ultimately, those have sensitivity this word Ogaden, they have a right to argue, but they have to at the same time read the history behind this denomination.
To reach out substantial agreement among Ethiopian government and ONLF which accelerates the initial agreement agreed upon currently the two sides
To be serious when it comes to oil/gas issue in the Somali region, and avoid blasphemy
Keeping and sustaining the LIYUU POLICE, and not allowing the Ethiopian government to dislodge them
To advocate getting decent representation from the federal level including EPRDF and the federal parliament. Currently, Somali region receives 24 Mps from the federal parliament , which is less than even Tigray who are less than the Somali region when it comes to population , and Tigray gains 38 Mps.
To push the Ethiopian government to allow the Somali region referendum towards the federal constitution, as longest they didn’t participate its adoption
Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist/Political Analyst and Independent Researcher)