ONLF Foreign Secretary on the Situation of Somalis in the Ogaden Region of Ethiopia

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ONLF Foriegn Secretary Abdi Rahman Mahdi

By: di Matteo Giusti/limes

Somalilandsun – The Ethiopian Ogaden region which is inhabited by a population of ethnic Somali and Muslim, continues since the movement of the Mahdi Abdelrahman to be a conflict point in the country after it was returned to Ethiopia 60 years ago with the Ethiopians in Addis Ababa lumping the Ogaden National Liberation Front, today’s predecessor of the Mahdi as an The has been fighting for al Qaeda ally.

For many years the center of fierce fighting that seriously endanger the survival, this region was annexed to Ethiopia for the first time during the reign of Menelik II in 1897 and then passed under the control of Somalia during the Italian colonial period. After the second world war, it was returned to Ethiopia in 1954 , after 13 years of British occupation .

The conflict thet erupted in the late seventies – the so-called Ogaden War – has not produced a definitive result . Even today, after many meetings strongly desired by the African Union, and after a time when it seemed that peace could bless this’ piece of arid Horn of Africa, he fights for the riches of the area.

Resisting (any unjust) agreement with the government of Ethiopia is the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the main movement that opposes the occupation of Ethiopia and search support across Europe. Mahdi Abdirahman is a first level manager as well as a spokesman and secretary of this movement and its London office Launches arrows against the despotism of Ethiopia. Limes interviewed him.

LIMES What is the situation of the Somali people of Ogaden ?

Madhi It is a very difficult situation: people are trying to survive but my are hungry. We came to the conclusion that the only way is the struggle to independence. Ethiopia is not possible to find any kind of deal. The atrocities that the military Addis Ababa committed in the Ogaden are unspeakable. Kill, rape and starve a people who will never surrender.

LIMES You accuse Ethiopia of discrimination against Somalis, but there are many minorities who live in Ethiopia.

Madhi We are Somalis and that Ethiopia does not accept us. The government of Addis Ababa has learned the lesson of Europe, from those same foreign powers that have divided African countries without understanding how they actually were. We cannot live with a people like the Ethiopian who are crushing those who are different. We no longer believe the promises of Ethiopian people, they treat the Ogaden as a colony, but we are Ogadeni and we want to be free. The Ethiopians pretend to respect minorities, go to Eritrea and listen to what the (their defected) army tells of Addis Ababa.

LIMES The Ogaden National Liberation Front is divided between the armed struggle at home and a media fight to raise awareness of the situation by seeking aid around the world .

Madhi Our story is sadly similar to that of all the oppressed peoples of the world. We have known the prison and now live in exile. Our children are not born in the Ogaden, but our grandchildren will be able to fly our flag. For this we need Europe and the United States to understand us, even though our struggle does not seem to interest anyone . We would like a commission of the United Nations to visit the Ogaden without being accompanied by the Ethiopian military, but you can not because the Ethiopians do not want witnesses, even the Red Cross. Two Swedish journalists have been arrested for entering the Ogaden . They accuse our movement of terrorism to have on their side the West, but the true terrorists are the rulers in Addis Ababa.

LIMES Somalis and Ethiopians are different races, speak different languages and have a different religion. How important is Islam in your fight ?

Madhi I want to dispel any doubts about our involvement with extremist groups that operate in the Horn of Africa. We Somalis are Muslims , but the program Ogaden National Liberation Front is a political and not religious . Islam is a religion of peace and we are very proud of our faith, but this does not change our idea of building an independent Ogaden. We are not in Afghanistan and none of us grew up in Islamic schools in Pakistan.

LIMES From your movement transpires strong nationalism, almost a revival of the idea of pansomalismo, the creation of a Greater Somalia Siad Barre who also brought forward.

Madhi We are proud of our roots and we want to have the freedom to be Somalis. All the bounds placed by foreign powers are useless : Russia and the United States prefer the pulverization of the region to keep us weak and sell weapons . We do not believe much in the creation of a state for all Somalis, first serve many steps. For now, we want independence. In Mogadishu lacks unity and yet they are fighting (one another).

First you need to pacify all regions , then we are willing to sit down at a table to discuss. But unfortunately the way for independence from Ethiopia still seems very long and difficult. Addis Ababa held a meeting to talk about the Ogaden issue, but it’s just a political move . Tens of thousands of people are still in prison, the killings are the order of the day and half of our women are systematically raped. You have to stop the genocide of our people, the world can no longer ignore us .

These barbarians on the government act with vehemence impunity of all charges. The (Ethiopian) embassies in London and Rome describe the Ogaden a great economic growth now and in peace for years. A very different picture from that presented by the Ogadeni guerrillas. Limes spoke with the head of the Policy and Public Diplomacy at the Embassy in Rome, Fesseha Tesfu Beyane.

LIMES The ONLF accuses Ethiopia to implement a real genocide in the Ogaden .

BEYANE Our constitution is clear, we are a federal republic that recognizes autonomy in all 9 regions that make up Ethiopia. Our government has invested heavily in the Ogaden and violence are a distant memory. The accusations of genocide against Ethiopia are defamatory . The country which I have the honor to represent is a true oasis of peace in a turbulent region and the population in the Ogaden are recognized autonomy and freedom

LIMES What is your opinion of the Ogaden National Liberation Front?

BEYANE Most of this movement has already given up the armed struggle and has reached an agreement with the Government of Ethiopia . Those few who still commit violence in the Ogaden do not represent anyone but themselves and are looking for advertising to get money from our government.

LIMES The Ogaden is open or is it a war zone as telling the Somalis ?

BEYANE course I can visit this region, in fact I invite you to see how much effort did the government in Addis Ababa to help the population . The area is peaceful, the only violence are those Ogaden National Liberation Front. These men are terrorists, do not fight for the Somali people, but only for personal gain. They have close ties with Al Shabab, the Somali Islamic Courts, the arm of al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa. The international community is aware of our fight against these bandits . “

LIMES His government as explained by the extreme instability of the region and the fragmentation of the Somali state in so many self-proclaimed small states ?

BEYANE difficult to find a single reason. In Mogadishu, the civil conflict between the warlords led to the destruction of the State, but the new federal government of Somalia is working well with the help of Ethiopia. My government maintains diplomatic relations with Somaliland and Puntland in the hope of being able to organize a table that can put an end to the violence in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is the strong state of the region and knows that this involves great responsibility

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