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Ethiopia: ESPDP and ONLF the
lesser of Two Evils‏
By Diriye H Abdilahi
August 23, 2011

The perception of Fear rest in the heart of the feeble body and silence the delicate mind to a crime of ignorance and bigotry. The suggestion of free and democratic region five is unconscionable but to absolve our leaders of any responsibility to the suffering of the people is naïve and disingenuous. The false narrative propagated by certain groups with a narrow political ideology about the level of crippling effect EPRDF interference has had on the region’s democratic development will take root. It is a narrative to distract the people from the real issues on hand which is corruption, incompetence and political nepotism. These very unique groups have positioned themselves as the true representative of each side of the political argument. Obviously there is some element of truth to this narrative but to simply attribute all the ills which of the region to EPRDF is too overly simplistic.

Mohamed Osman, Chairman, ONLF
Meles Zenawii Ethiopia PM

The ONLF and the regional ruling party (ESPDP) have forcefully occupied any political space that might have existed after the fall of the Derg. On one side of the political dichotomy is the ONLF which has declared itself as the peoples champion for freedom and justice. On the other side of the argument is the regional government,
the
self-proclaimed provider
of law and order and the antidote to
any unwarranted rebellion that might destabilize the region.

It is clearly evident that the regional leadership has benefited more from the EPRDF involvement in the region internal political affairs than the ONLF. It would not be farfetched to say the current leadership not only welcomes EPRDF interference in the regional day to day operation but advocate for it. Based on events that have transpired in recent years, one can legitimately argue and say it is the EPRDF who has reluctantly involved its self in region five political affairs.

The regional government has benefited greatly from this arrangement in multiple ways. First, it has been promulgated as the only legitimate political organization in the region. Second, it has been given unfettered access to government resources to subdue any unfriendly association to the EPRDF and in return they are allowed to operate with impunity. Third, the presence of the EPRDF in the region has allowed the regional government to position itself as the victim of a heavy handed government policy thus exculpate  its self of any irresponsible conduct in the region. The later has created the public acceptance of the most contemptible transgression imaginable in modern day.

Due to their inconsequential actions in the region the ONLF and the regional ruling political party have directly and indirectly caused more harm than good. There is no denying of the fact that the EPRDF is guilty of misguided policy and indiscriminate punishment in the region. However, if the gate keepers are conspiring with the enemy and the freedom fighters are fighting for a very selective group it becomes very difficult to differentiate between friends and foe. Unlike Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein and the IRA who through collective effort achieved their political objective. The ONLF and region five political leadership have competing political objective and neither is based on serving the interest of the region as a whole.

The existence of these two groups have discouraged and stifled any opportunity to have alternative political options. They have tainted the political process with their experiment of divisive ideology. The divisiveness of the ONLF and its incompetent counterpart had created the perfect storm for the EPRDF to turn the region into a cash cow for its supporters and political sympathizers. Irrespective of their dominance of the political discourse in the region neither of these two organizations has been able to grab hold of the hearts and minds of the very people which they profess to represent.

The ONLF has been a true counterbalance to the EPRDF aggression and lackluster regional government. It has been the only true voice in the region that can shed some light on the EPRDF atrocity and the complicit regional government willingness to look the other way. On the other hand the movement has been engaged in an unacceptable and irresponsible political campaign to rewrite the region’s history. While it is important to note the suffering of The Ogaden people, the region as whole has suffered under the current regime. Although some might argue the suffering of the region can be attributed to the actions of the ONLF and EPRDF collective punishment strategy, the regional leadership must shoulder its share of burden as well. The general support for the ONLF movement as well as its casualty has been but not limited to the Ogaden people. Their arm struggle has had unintended consequences, a reversal of fortunes by way of direct assault and collateral damage. Despite a very restive public eagerly awaiting for comprehensive dialogue, the movement has drastically failed to generate support for its cause. Its name alone has deprived the movement from taping into great reservoir of people who are politically and ideologically discontent with the EPRDF and the regional leadership. The lack of coherent policy and its explosive rhetoric has kept the movement at odds with the general public. The ONLF political manifesto at best is ambiguous and discriminative. The name of the organization and its geographical aspiration has caused some grave concerns in the region. The failure to expand the ONLF beyond tribal boundaries has weekend the movement and overburden its supporters. It is very difficult to imagine for non Ogaden to dedicate its human capital and treasure to an organization which can be viewed as partisan movement with an uncertain political principles. Despite the regional outcry for the movement to become politically inclusive and broaden its organizational structure, it has stubbornly maintained what most if not all in the region consider unattainable objectives. The ONLF pursuit of partisan revolutionary agenda is one which does not have any historical merit and cultural acceptance in the region. The continuation of its current strategy will only widen the division between it and the general public as well as deprive the rest the region any political space for discontent.

I understand it is ungodly to speak out against anyone who is fighting against oppression and dictatorship but we must have a very frank dialogue in order to understand each other’s position. We can begin this dialogue by asking some basic questions which has been lingering the minds of every one in region five. How much value does the name ONLF hold? How much of a stock should the movement put on protecting and valuing the name? The Ogaden National Liberation Front is one that requires frank debate about whom it intent on librating? The type of connotation the name of the movement carries suggests to some that it is a liberation front for the Ogaden people. Therefore, the question becomes where do the non Ogaden in the region fit into its agenda? Should none Ogaden people in the region view this movement as threat to their survival or should they look beyond the name and indentify with the common threat they face together? A movement such as this surly has territorial implications and if so would it impede on none Ogaden land? These are some of the questions the citizens of region five have been wrestling with since the inception of the ONLF. It is clear that the movement will not and cannot succeed without fundamental changes to its policy and strategy.

Diriye H Abdilahi
Email:diriyee@gmail.com
Peace and Milk

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