Category: "Ogaden Ethiopia"

Rebel faction in Ethiopia says it wants peace talks

December 23rd, 2012
Photo: Wikipedia Commons The ONLF aims to create an independent state in Ethiopia's southeastern Ogaden territory

Rebel faction in Ethiopia says it wants peace talks

By Aaron Maasho | Reuters

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters)
- A faction of a separatist rebel group said on Sunday it was seeking peace talks with the Ethiopian government, a development that could help stabilize a region with potential reserves of oil and gas.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has fought since the mid-1980s for independence for the mainly ethnic Somali province of Ogaden in southeast Ethiopia, bordering lawless Somalia.

Abdinur Abdulaye Farah, the group's representative in east Africa, said his faction was in the Ethiopian capital hoping to have talks with the government. There was no immediate comment from the authorities.
The initiative pointed to weakened secessionist activity in Ogaden, where rebels have not mounted a major attack since 2007. Several companies, including Chinese firms, are exploring for oil and gas in the area.
"More and more people want peace. There are very few people supporting the rebels now," Farah told journalists upon arriving at Addis Ababa's airport.

REBELS WEAKENED

A separate ONLF faction, which claimed to represent 80 percent of the fighters who menaced energy stakes in the Ogaden a few years back, sealed a deal with the Ethiopian government last year.
Farah said negotiations between the remainder of the ONLF and the government, held in Kenya's capital Nairobi two months ago, broke down when the rebels declined to accept the constitution and shun their armed struggle. The talks led to a further split, he said.

Other rival wings within the divided ONLF, including one run by former Somali navy chief Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman, were not immediately available for comment.

The Osman group claimed responsibility for a 2007 attack on an oil exploration field owned by a subsidiary of China's Sinopec Corp that killed 65 Ethiopian soldiers and nine Chinese oil workers, and for many other attacks on military targets over the last few years.

Addis Ababa has acknowledged past skirmishes with the rebels, but claims of battle victories from both sides have been hard to verify. Journalists cannot move in the area without government escorts.
Ethiopian forces waged an offensive against the rebels in late 2007 after the ONLF attack on the Sinopec site. Residents say the rebels have been severely weakened since then, but launch regular hit-and-run attacks including a handful of assassination attempts on regional officials.

The separatist cause originally drew support because of poverty and lack of development. Until a recent upsurge in infrastructure projects, the entire area of 200,000 sq km (77,000 sq miles) had only about 30 km (20 miles) of tarmac road.
(Editing by James Macharia and Mark Trevelyan)

Ethiopia: The Ogaden Problem: Will an Old Insurgency Tip the Balance in East Africa?

November 7th, 2012
JONATHAN ALPEYRIE / GETTY IMAGES
An ONLF soldier rests inside the destoyed town school during a sweep in the area for government soldiers in Ethiopia, Feb. 23, 2009.

The Ogaden Problem: Will an Old Insurgency Tip the Balance in East Africa?

By William Lloyd George

TIME

Hopes that one of the Horn of Africa‘s longest running conflicts could soon come to an end foundered when peace talks between the Ethiopian government and ethnic Ogadeni rebels recently broke down. Due to the Ogaden National Liberation Front’s alleged ties with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s troublesome neighbour, and rumored links to al-Qaeda affiliated militia al-Shabab, many fear the failure of the negotiations could fuel instability and conflict in the region.

The ONLF have been fighting over a territory officially called the Somali region due to its proximity to Somalia. Predominantly Muslim and culturally closer to Somalia, the residents of the region have long felt detached from the Orthodox Christian ruling government in Addis Ababa. While most of the ONLF’s political wing is based in western countries, its military units operate on the fringes of Ethiopian sovereignty, entering the region across its borders with Somalia and Eritrea using hit and run tactics. On the back of years of underdevelopment and mistreatment, the ONLF claims to represent a population that seeks independence from Ethiopia—and some even who desire a union with neighboring Somalia. “Now our people are like slaves, under a humanitarian siege with no right to anything,” says Abdirahman Mahdi, the ONLF’s founder and foreign secretary based in the U.K.


Read more: TIME

Briefing: Ethiopia's ONLF rebellion

October 29th, 2012
Photo: Wikipedia Commons The ONLF aims to create an independent state in Ethiopia's southeastern Ogaden territory

Briefing: Ethiopia's ONLF rebellion

NAIROBI, 29 October 2012 (IRIN,/a>)
- Any hopes for an imminent end to conflict in Ethiopia’s Somali region were dashed earlier this month when talks between the government and the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) broke down.

Hosted by Kenya's government in Nairobi, the negotiations started in September, with Ethiopia's delegation led by Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa and the ONLF team headed by Abdirahman Mahdi, the group's foreign secretary. Meeting on 6 and 7 September, the two sides agreed on the modalities of the negotiation process, the general principles that would form the basis of resolving the conflict and the initial agenda, ONLF said in a statement.

Despite optimism from both parties, the talks fell at the first hurdle, with the Ethiopian government insisting the rebels first accept the country's constitution, a demand rejected by the ONLF as a breach of the talks’ agreed modalities.

IRIN takes a look at the ONLF and the implications of continued rebellion for Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa region.

NLF rebels?

Founded in the early 1980s, when much of Ethiopia was still ravaged by civil war, the ONLF aims to create an independent state in Ethiopia's southeastern Ogaden territory, which is mainly inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

The Ogaden territory is located in the Somali Region, one of nine ethnically based administrative regions in the country. Poorly developed for decades due to neglect from the central government, the territory has enjoyed relative stability and development under the current Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which has governed the country since 1991. The party's regional affiliate, the Ethiopian Somali People's Democratic Party, says significant advances have been seen in the expansion of education, health, potable water, roads, electricity and telecommunication facilities.

The ONLF insurgency began in 1984, furthering earlier attempts either to separate the region or join it to neighbouring Somalia. The group partnered with the EPRDF in the 1991 removal of junta leader Mengistu Haile Mariam, after which the two groups effectively governed the Somali region as part of a transitional government.

In 1994, following disagreements over the country's transition, the ONLF re-started its insurgency, demanding the right to self-determination. The group says it will use any means necessary - including violence - to unseat the central government.

When two elephants fight, it's the grass that suffers

Though the ONLF fighters had, over the years, mounted several attacks, including assassinating and injuring regional government leaders, it remained a low-level insurgency for years. An April 2007 attack on a Chinese-run oil field in the region brought the conflict to the fore; at least 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese oil workers were killed in the attack. Seven Chinese nationals were taken captive in the incident. ONLF had accused the government of forcibly relocating the local population to allow for oil and gas exploration.

In September 2007, a UN humanitarian assessment mission to the region found a "pervasive fear for individual safety and security" among the population caught between the government and the ONLF. They expressed concerns about deteriorating food security, protection and healthcare in the region.

Since the 2007 attack, Ethiopian forces have maintained a large presence in the region, and the government's efforts to explore its natural gas and oil potential there have continued.

Anti-terrorism a pretext?

In 2009, the Ethiopian parliament passed an anti-terrorism law that has been much-criticized by rights groups.

According to Laetitia Bader, a Human Rights Watch researcher on Ethiopia, the law’s definition of terrorism is too broad and vague, and can be interpreted to include peaceful protests and lawful speech. She noted that it also contains several alarming provisions, including one on pre-trial detention that allows suspects to be held in custody for up to four months without charge.

In 2010, parliament took another controversial step, naming three domestic opposition groups - including the ONLF - as "terrorists" alongside international groups like Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabab.

All three groups operate freely in European countries and the US, where they have offices and representatives. At the 2011 UN General Assembly, then-Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, now Ethiopia’s prime minister, criticized Western countries, particularly the US, for having double standards in their categorization of terrorist groups.

Ethiopian authorities launched a campaign to prosecute people with perceived ties to these three organizations. In its 2011 country report, Amnesty International said that by November 2011, 107 opposition politicians, activists and journalists were prosecuted under the law; some later received severe sentences.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says 11 journalists, including two Swedes arrested for reporting on the ONLF, were imprisoned under the law. The government later pardoned the pair, releasing them in September after they spent 14 months in jail. In another high-profile terror case, a UN security officer was sentenced to 7 years and 8 months for allegedly passing information to the ONLF.

Both sides guilty of rights violations

Right groups have accused both the government forces and ONLF fighters of multiple human right violations, including killings and halting deliveries of food and medicine to civilians.

A 2008 Human Rights Watch report alleged the government was conducting forced relocations and forced recruitment and accused the ONLF of conducting summary executions and illegal detentions.

Gunmen reportedly affiliated with the ONLF attacked a UN World Food Programme (WFP) vehicle in May 2011, killing its driver and injuring one other staff member. According to a US State Department report, the attackers "also kidnapped two other WFP employees in the vehicle. The ONLF admitted that it had the two employees in its custody without taking responsibility for the attack. On June 30, the ONLF released the two WFP employees unharmed."

The report says civilians, international NGOs, and other aid organizations operating in the Somali region blamed government security forces, local militias, and the ONLF for abuses such as arbitrary arrests meant to intimidate civilians.

A 2011 Amnesty Internationalreport said refugee children had reported being forcibly recruited by the ONLF in Kenya and trafficked back to Ethiopia to serve as porters and cooks.

In May, Human Rights Watch reported that an Ethiopian government-backed paramilitary force summarily executed 10 men during a March 2012 operation in the region. The allegations were strongly denied by the government.

Why did the peace talks fail?

In October 2010, the Ethiopian government said it had reached a peace deal with a major faction of the ONLF. Euphoric crowds sang at a ceremony at Addis Ababa's Sheraton Hotel, where a peace agreement was inked, pledging the termination of the ONLF insurgency.

The remaining insurgents denounced the peace deal and vowed to continue their bid for secession, calling the faction that signed the deal "a creation of the Ethiopian regime".

Even as it denounced previous peace deals and continued to fight, the ONLF maintained it was ready to talk with the central government, and the September talks in Nairobi were hailed by both sides. Still, pundits were wary. The government had described the talks only as part of efforts "to bring all concerned to the constitutional framework", while the ONLF had long rejected any allegiance to the country's basic law.

As the two sides were about to enter formal negotiations in mid-October, the government made the rebels’ recognition of the federal constitution a precondition for the talks to proceed. News outlets quoted the ONLF's chief negotiator Mahdi saying that the movement predated the constitution and that the group should not be forced to recognize it.

Regional implications

As the insurgency threatens to return to high gear, many are concerned about its regional implications. Ethiopia has routinely accused neighbouring Eritrea of supporting the ONLF; in February, the UN's Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group reported to the UN Security Council that it had evidence of Eritrea's support of the ONLF and another Ethiopian separatist group, the Oromo Liberation Front.

Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a brutal border war in 1998-2000, and tensions between the two countries remain high. In March, the Ethiopian army said it had attacked military camps 18km inside Eritrea; the targets were three military camps where it said the Eritrean government has been training and arming terrorists.

The newly elected Somalia government is backed by Ethiopia and was also welcomed by the ONLF, but continued fighting in Ethiopia's Somali region could threaten Somalia's tenuous stability. In the past, efforts by Ethiopian forces to root out the Al-Shabab militia in Somalia were resisted by the ONLF, who attacked conveys carrying Ethiopian soldiers. At the time, Meles said the intervention in Somalia also targeted the ONLF and other rebel groups.

New fighting force in Ethiopia's Ogaden

September 18th, 2012

New fighting force in Ethiopia's Ogaden

Source: Al Jazeera

Peace talks just held in Kenya have highlighted the role of ONLF in region's long-running separatist campaign

The conflict In Ethiopia's Somali, or Ogaden, region has killed thousands of people over the last 15 years. But the crisis is little known because of media restrictions by the government.

It borders Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia. The people there are predominantly ethnic Somali and Muslim.

It is also home to a separatist campaign led by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, or ONLF, which has fought for independence since 1984.

Ethiopian forces waged an offensive against the rebels in late 2007 after an attack on a Chinese-run oil facility.

Last week Ethiopia's government held peace talks with the ONLF in Kenya.

In the second part of Al Jazeera's series on Ogaden, Mohammed Adow meets the region's new fighting force.

Ethiopia Government in Talks With ONLF, Bereket Simon Says

September 8th, 2012
Ethiopia's Somali Region BBC map

Ethiopia Government in Talks With ONLF, Spokesman Says

By William Davison

Bloomberg News

Ethiopia’s government has held peace talks with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an outlawed ethnic-Somali rebel group, Communications Minister Bereket Simon said.

“It’s a very positive step and we will pursue negotiations up to the last and try to bring all concerned in that area to the constitutional framework,” Bereket said in a phone interview from the capital, Addis Ababa, today.

Proposals to end the conflict in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali regional state were agreed during initial talks on Sept. 6 and Sept. 7 in Nairobi, the rebel group said in an e-mailed statement today.
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Ethiopian Government, Ogaden Rebels Hold Preliminary Talks

VOA News

Ethiopian government officials and ethnic Somali rebels have met to set a framework for negotiations aimed at ending a 28-year insurgency in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia's Somali regional state.

Both the government and rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the ONLF, said the preliminary talks took place Thursday and Friday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. An ONLF statement said an unspecified date had been set for further talks. It also said both sides have agreed to specific goodwill and confidence-building measures ahead of formal negotiations.

Ethiopian Communications Minister Bereket Simon is calling the talks “a very positive step.” He told the Bloomberg news service the government is ready to “pursue negotiations up to the last.” No other details have been announced.

The ONLF launched a low-level rebellion in 1984 aimed at gaining greater autonomy in Somali state — a region rich in natural gas reserves that — like the rest of the country — has been ravaged by extended drought and severe food shortages.

The Addis Ababa government has labeled the ONLF a terrorist organization with ties in neighboring Somalia to the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab.

The ONLF accuses the Ethiopian government of widespread human rights abuses in the Ogaden region. It claims the government has repeatedly confiscated private property and interfered with relief work. It also claims Addis Ababa has wrongfully expropriated international aid destined for the region.