OPEN LETTER ABOUT SOMALI REGIONAL STATE INSTABILITY.
U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
14 Entoto Road P.O. Box 1014,
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
German Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Yeka Kifle Ketema, Kebele 06
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
British Embassy Addis Ababa – GOV.UK
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax +251 11 617 55 58
Embassy of Norway in Addis Ababa
Embassy of Denmark, Ethiopia
Date: Feb 14, 2021
OPEN LETTER ABOUT SOMALI REGIONAL STATE INSTABILITY
I was born and grew in Ethiopia. I am former Regional Minister of Planning and Economic Development in Ethiopia and former UNDP Senior Researcher in the The Horn of Africa. I am currently an independent researcher and expert in Strategic Planning and Organisational Development based in Canada and East Africa.
Having said that, as you know 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, on October 21, 2018.
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. 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.
ONLF is no more armed group but is seeking to experience strong economic growth in the coming years. We know Ethiopia is discerning how best to balance the challenges and opportunities for growth. ONLF is ready to exploit its natural resources and work with the federal government hand in hand by getting advantage of its rich fertile lands, permanent perennial rivers, huge livestock and rangeland as well as the abundant natural gas and petroleum. ONLF is addressing the objectives of sustainable development which necessitates the institutional and technical capacity to assess the economic, environmental, and social implications of development strategies and to formulate and implement appropriate policy responses, which this war-ravaged land and poor people could feel welcome.
In order for Somalis who have been at war for centuries live in sustainable development, we need the safety and security of our people to live in peace and in dignity, to be free from all sort of intimidations and human rights abuses, such constant fear and illegal detention. We know this practice will take a long time because it existed for many years. But the mechanism of keeping the promises must be in place. However, there are emerging threats which could compromise the anticipated peace, stability and development. Somali Regional State in Ethiopia or the Ogaden region has already faced increased poverty and mistrust between the administration in power and the competing political parties in the state.
Lately, the administration started closing the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF’s) office in many places, detained ONLF officials and intimidated many other supporters, a tactic known by all previous regimes in Ethiopia.
When the security officers guarding the ONLF chair was removed by the administration and death threats were directed to many other leaders of ONLF who were campaigning for the ill-fated but the only hope of the coming election, there is growing tension in the ONLF leaders regarding their own safety which is contrary to the signed agreement between Federal Ethiopian government and ONLF.
Current treatment of the citizens of the Somali state and the incitement of ONLF by the regional administration is reinforcing the already eroded public confidence and demand for the Federal government to intervene and keep its promises. Despite ONLF struggle to talk to the regional state actors, the formation of committees to resolve the issues of misunderstanding, the rejection of any kind of talk by the regional administration has led to the political impasse that birthed hopelessness in the public at large and among the ONLF cadre, which may create an unexpected instability which the ruling party seems to be aspiring before the coming election.
ONLF is carrying out its sensitization and mobilization campaigns peacefully and down the street, suddenly a police officer orders the ONLF officers to halt and is starting to ask some questions then detaining them illegally for days and at time months. The regional administration closed more than 40 ONLF offices in the districts. Currently, there are over 100 ONLF officers and cadre that are illegally detained. It is very absolute humiliation to tell our community that ONLF is unarmed and preparing themselves for the election campaign and yet the community cannot peacefully assemble and get to gather to show their support to ONLF.
The Somali people in the Ogaden/Somali State are despondent of fighting for more than a hundred years and they need the stability that leads to a free and fair election which in turn brings sustainable development. In the meantime, ONLF’s fight is about seeking the right to decide the future of Somalis in the Ogaden. ONLF cannot decide what the Somali people want. What ONLF is saying is that let Somalis be given their right to decide. Free choice is not secession; free choice could mean choosing the right to live together in peace and dignity. This is in line with the definition of the United Nations instruments which is a basic right of contemporary international law which has been given prominence in the United Nation’s Charter, by decisions of the International Court of Justice, by subsequent multilateral agreements exhibiting customary expectations, and by numerous resolutions by the General Assembly, as well as the mediation agreement Ethiopia and ONLF, signed in Asmara in 2018.
Therefore, ONLF and other smaller political parties are hundred per cent ready to participate in the coming election in a peaceful manner, but the regional administration is creating unnecessary tension and agitation, closure of ONLF offices and detention of its officers and cadres and that is what the Somalis living in the Somali state is warning about.
When TPLF was committing genocide in the Somali State for over twenty years, the world was silent and the refugee influx of innocent Somalis was huge. Now, when Dr Abiy started the campaign to catch the TPLF perpetrators, the whole world is crying for Tigray people.
All that our people want is the regional state admin to stop the provocation of the fight which is likely to escalate the relationship between ONLF and the Administration and the clan motivated violence between and among the Somali communities in the region. These are the typical tactics of the past regimes. We want ONLF and other political parties to exercise their constitutional rights of campaigning for the preparation of the upcoming elections.
The federal government seems not to be respecting and upholding the provisions of its constitution and that it is defiance in its agreement. Because it is not talking to the regional state to stop the provocation of ONLF and release all the detained ONLF members and reopen its offices.
We urge the world benevolent community should listen to the local community and intervene in the situation before things fall apart.
Mahamud Ugas Muhumed, PhD
12742 86 St NW
Edmonton, AB, T5E 3A8, Canada
CC: Office of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia
P.O.Box: 1031 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
CC: New York Times Magazine
CC: Amnesty International
CC: Human Rights Watch