ONLF Response To Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release

ONLF Press Statement
June 21, 2007

That the Ogaden has been neglected by the current regime in power in Ethiopia is not in question. That what is unfolding in Ogaden amounts to war crimes is what the world is beginning to see placing upon it a moral obligation to intervene.

Since 1994 the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has appealed to the international community to hear the cries of countless victims of the current Ethiopian regimes systematic repression of our people. Today, the Ogaden is one of the most underdeveloped areas in the world not because of a lack of resources, but a deliberate policy of suppression against civilians and an open hostility to the wishes of the people of Ogaden to have legitimate institutions serving the needs of the people.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release dated 19 June 2007 and authored by Seyoum Mesfin, a senior member of the ruling Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) which also heads the government was a knee jerk reaction to the uncovering of this regimes dirty little secret in Ogaden. The same regime that professes to be moving Ethiopia toward a more democratic order is also the same regime that has planned and executed a campaign of terror against the nomadic cattle herders and villagers of Ogaden.

The Ministry made several claims in its Press Release which have no basis in reality and are designed to spin what was clearly accurate reporting by the New York Times. At one point, Seyoum Mesfin compares the New York Times journalist to an intelligence agent leaving one to wonder whether his government is sending a veiled message to the United States. Since a free press has become a rare commodity in Ethiopia, it comes as no surprise to us that Seyoum Mesfin would consider any journalist as an intelligence agent.

The Press Release made mention of the word terrorist in conjunction with the ONLF so many times that it was clear that this was the only message this regime was trying to convey through this statement. The statement makes no mention of the fact that the ONLF was actually part of the government when the marxist regime of strong man Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown in Ethiopia. It further ignores that fact that in the first elections held in Ogaden in 1992, the ONLF won 84% of seats in the regional parliament with additional seats being won by parties holding a platform similiar to the ONLF.

This regime seems to have forgotten that following those elections many of our parliamentarians were arrested and some killed including an attempt on the life of the then ONLF chairman in 1994 resulting in the massacre of 81 civilians at the hands of TPLF militia.

The TPLF led regime in Ethiopia also conveniently forgets that despite its campaign of terror against our people, the ONLF has always maintained a policy of welcoming direct dialogue subject to the presence of a neutral third party in a neutral country a position that the TPLF has rejected due to its unwillingness to have a third party present.

Instead, the TPLF has left no stone unturned to convince the international community that the ONLF is a terrorist organization despite being the only organization enjoying widespread legitimacy and support from the people of Ogaden. It seems that it has become fashionable for this regime to label anyone who opposes its policies as terrorists in order to divert attention from the legitimate grievances of the people.

The TPLF, itself an armed liberation movement labeled as terrorists by the previous regime before taking power themselves is fond of referring to the recent operation in Obole as a terrorist act, yet when members of the opposition asked the regime to furnish the names of Ethiopian civilians harmed in the operation, it did not, resulting in a vote of condemnation supported only by the ruling party members. Are we to believe that the 90 or so members of the opposition who refused to support the resolution were not people of conscious , or did they see the sinister motive of the TPLF led regime to seek to label a legitimate organization as terrorists in order to continue to justify their abuse of our people and continued neglect of Ogaden.

If the regime is justified in claiming a massacre, why did it refuse the calls of opposition parliamentarians to provide a full and detailed report following an investigation? Why are even the hand picked parliamentarians from the region silent about what took place other than the so-called regional President who claimed that Eritreans attacked the oil exploration facility, a claim that even his masters in the TPLF thought too sensational to make themselves.

The fact of the matter is that senior leaders of this regime had personal ties to the oil exploration facility at Obole, a factor which contributed to our selection of that target. In addition, our people were forcefully removed from grazing lands without compensation and with little warning. In short the ONLF targeted this regimes armed forces and not oil workers or civilians. The ONLF as a matter of policy and principle does not target civilians a claim the TPLF regime cannot make given its current record. It is this regime that has practiced a policy of assassinations, torture and intimidation. It is the TPLF that has acted as judge and jury in Ethiopia.

That the ONLF has joined hands with a diverse array of organizations with drastically different platforms forming the Alliance for Freedom & Democracy (AFD) demonstrating a commitment to peace through dialogue and calling for an all inclusive conference to chart a new political future for Ethiopia is also conveniently forgotten by this regime. The member organizations of the AFD were able to overcome their political differences in order to work together for a better future, something the TPLF has demonstrated that it is incapable of doing.

At every turn, this regime has labeled any initiative of the people as being hatched in Eritrea as though the people have no aspirations of their own. As though the desire for justice is imported and not homegrown. Are we to believe that all the victims of this regime are controlled by Eritrea? Are we all in a mass comma feeling nothing ourselves and needing to be directed from abroad?

Is it soo hard to believe that civilians have been massacred in Ogaden away from cameras by the TPLF when this regime did not hesitate to massacre civilians in the Streets of Addis Ababa after a rigged election in front of cameras?

What the New York Times reported and the world is now beginning to see is a human catastrophe this regime will do anything it can to conceal. That is why western journalists are denied entry into Ogaden. That is why the TPLF regime is desperate to label the ONLF as terrorists. That is why even the recent census was never initiated in Ogaden. That is why the rigged elections of 2005 did not even take place in Ogaden until several months later when the machinery of the TPLF was fully in place and ballot boxes were often found in army barracks.

The current regime in Ethiopia does not want the world to hear the cries of our people. It is a slow genocide away from the cameras and global attention. At this very moment there is a widescale crackdown taking place against throughout Ogaden. Trucks carrying food are being denied entry into towns like Degah-Bur, Qabri-Dahar and Gode. Several of the the very traditional leaders this regime claims to have been envoys of peace in their Press Release now find themselves in prison. Over thirty political prisoners have been loaded on trucks and driven out of Jijiga with no word on where they have been taken. Many of our civilians are leaving major towns because of this state of siege and seeking refuge with the ONLF. It is to put an end to these atrocities and many more that the ONLF struggles for in partnership other members of the AFD.

The ONLF calls upon the European Union and the United States in particular to hold this regime to account for its war crimes against the people of Ogaden and countless other political prisoners and prisoners of conscious who currently languish in Ethiopian jails including the duly elected leaders of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) who were unjustly convicted of fabricated crimes simply because they won their seats in parliament and the countless members of the OLF,SLF and EPPF who are detained, tortured and harassed by this regime simply because they exercised their right to freedom of association. We further call upon the human rights organizations to defy the ban placed on them by the TPLF authorities and come to Ogaden to see for themselves the plight of our people.

The moral burden rests on the shoulders of the worlds leading democracies. While the people have spoken on their views of this regime, it is up to freedom loving people everywhere and their governments to make sure their voices are heard. To do anything less would be to turn away from the very aspirations for democracy and rule of law that they seek to expand accross the world.

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)
Foreign Affairs Bureau
Jijiga, Ogaden
20 June 2007