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What can be expected from the ONLF-Ethiopia peace-talk process?

February 6, 2015

By Ahmed Abdi
The Eritrean EPLF and the Ethiopian government agreed to enter into negotiations mediated by former United States president, Jimmy Carter, in mid-1989, after Mengistu succeeded in thwarting a coup attempt.
The two sides agreed to hold another round of peace talks in Nairobi , Kenya , on November 20, 1989, after a round of preliminary negotiations, which opened on September 7, 1989, at the Carter Presidential Center at Emory University in Atlanta , Georgia .

Those talks failed to produce a peace agreement. Subsequent meetings in Washington, chaired by United States assistant secretary of state for African affairs Herman Cohen, also accomplished little.
Those negotiations continued unabated as late as March 1991, when Mengistu regime fall in May 1991 and went into exile in Zimbabwe, without signing any peace terms with the Eritrean rebels or their allies the TPLF. That is what Ethiopia calls peace negotiation. Politicians talk and the Generals act differently.
Based on this historical fact, an Ogadeni activist believes that the Ethiopia-dominated TPLF has no stomach for entering into genuine negotiations with any group or opposition due to its inexperience, when it comes to solving problems on the table.
” I think, any peace-talk that ONLF engages with the Ethiopian government will be fruitless, not because it is dishonest with the talks, but also lacks know-how how to solve any problems with dialogue,” said Mowlid Sharif, an Ogadeni activist based in South Africa.
On September 6 and 7, 2012, the two sides ,ONLF and Ethiopia, agreed on the modalities of the negotiation process, including to be held the talks without preconditions in a bid to avoid disrupting the peace-talks in part of ending the conflict in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region.
Kenya-brokered peace talks between ONLF and Ethiopia stalled in October 17, 2012 following ONLF’s refusal to accept a pre-condition imposed by Ethiopian negotiation team, which was a violation to initial agreement.
” I trust the two previous talks between ONLF and Ethiopia ended in vain, because the Ogaden regional State President, Abdi Mohamud Omar, and the Tigray Commander in Harar, General Abraha Woldemariam , wanted the talks to end up without any results,since any peace talk with the ONLF could be threat to their personal interests in the region.”
The activist said, any genuine peace-talks involves good faith negotiation and I believe that any good intention from the side of the government is unforeseeable.”
Mr. Sharif Added that even though Kenya and other countries are involved in Ethiopia-Ogaden talks aimed at ending one of the longest wars in East Africa’s history, it is likely to end up without much accomplishment.
Last week, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn asked Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan to act as mediator between Ethiopia’s government and the ONLF, taking advantage of Erdogan’s visit to Ethiopia, according to Africa Intelligence site.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands that fled from Ogaden , of whom 101,850 are registered with UNHCR in Dadaab, Kenya and Sana’a Yemen. Around 100 families from Ogaden live in Al-Kharaz Refugee in the South of Yemen, registered with the UN as refugees from Somalia.
It is not clear the exact number of the murdered, but experts believe hundreds of thousands, despite all these, the mainstream media won’t touch the story.
Human Right Watch has accused the Ethiopian government of systematically cracking down on media ahead of the May 2015 election.
ONLF was founded in 1984, and it has been engaging army struggle with the Ethiopian troops stationed in Ogaden since 1994, after the Ethiopian government cracked down its members following after the first ever legitimate Ogaden Parliament overwhelming votes yes for self-determination.
Ahmed Abdi is a freelance journalist, over the last couple of years, Mr. Abdi produced an enormous series of publications across dozens of local, regional and international portals.

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