Friday, 15 March 2013

Ogaden| A Century of Oppression Must End with Self-Determination

“After a Century of fighting successive Ethiopian regimes, and in the process losing hundreds of thousands of brave men and women with nothing to show for, it’s time to lay down the gun and seek other peaceful solutions”.

I often hear the above quote from few self-proclaimed intellectuals and stakeholders of the Ogaden.
So I in turn ask them, why should we abandon the cause that so many people have died for?
In fact shouldn’t losing so many people for this struggle be the reason why we should continue? Shouldn’t we honor them for the sacrifice they have made for our land and people?

The reality is our people have endured and have been inflicted on so much pain by sadist successive Ethiopian regimes, and after so many promises made and broken, they had no choice but to take arms. It’s a known fact that whenever the oppressed rise up and take arms against its oppressor they are often at a disadvantage in almost all aspects of that armed struggle. Nevertheless, what they have on their side is the biggest asset in life "TIME!” which is also the biggest obstacle of the oppressor. As time goes by the oppressor weakens and the oppressed strengthens, gains experience through hardships, struggle, and learns the weakness of their enemy. Moreover, the oppressor spends more money on weapons and propaganda as unemployment and inflation rates rise causing his own citizens to starve. Over time it becomes hard for him to sustain such a status quo and will eventually reach a tipping point an internal collapse becomes absolutely inevitable. Look at what happened to Mengistu and his so-called strongest army in Africa? What happened to Siad Barre and his NSS, Red Berets and victory pioneers? So time is never a factor in the eyes of the oppressed. It could take 100 years or 20 years but until they achieve their goal, the struggle by the oppressed always continues "Gumeystuhu iga tag kuma tago" is a Somali saying indeed the oppressor will never leave the oppressed through the latter’s verbal request.

After fifteen years of armed struggle, the Ogaden people today are at a point where there is no turning back for they can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Today the world knows about them and their struggle. The world knows about the human right violations in the Ogaden particularly the collective punishment that had been imposed on them by the Ethiopian regime. After so many years of struggle and achievements however, some people have the audacity to suggest they should give up and lay down their arms? Let me ask, since it wasn’t their choice, who forced them to fight in the first place? And did the oppressor stop fighting them yet? So why should they lay their arms down? Why should they give up their number one negotiating tool before their needs are met?

As stated in the article, The Dangers of Negotiations with Dictators, “When the opposition is exceptionally strong and the dictatorship is genuinely threatened, the dictators may seek negotiations in order to salvage as much of their control or wealth as possible.” Thus it is evident the so-called peace negotiations done by Meles’ regime on-behalf of our people with few power hungry entities was to salvage his own regime. Which proves negotiating with a dictator such as Meles Zanawi is impossible and his tactic is to deceive the people and the world over. As we continue with the above article “…the call for negotiations when basic issues of political liberties are involved maybe an effort by the dictator (Meles) to induce us to surrender peacefully while the violence by him continues. As my brother once told me “Let me know when Lions and Gazelles can negotiate in the lion’s den”

What fascinated me however, was the so-called peace deal that a few impatient, desperate and/or illiterate individuals took. I would like to ask, what has it done for our people? Can anyone name me one benefit that it brought to our people that was of course on our agenda when the journey to self-determination started? I still see a region systematically isolated from the rest of the world, where an economic and humanitarian blockade has been placed on an innocent poor population. I still hear the same cries of our mothers, sons, sisters, and brothers. I still see a region where its so-called leaders are hand-picked and changed frequently by the Ethiopian regime in accordance with their agendas. I still see a region that has a trade embargo and restricted access to humanitarian NGO's and all International media.  As we speak the worst drought has hit the horn of Africa, particularly the Somali inhabited regions due to their pastoralist activities and failures of consecutive rainy seasons that further deteriorated the situation. The Ogaden due to the blockade is hit even harder and the Ethiopian regime has refused the operation of any aid agencies in the region. Through his hypocrisy, Meles is now opening up two refugee camps along the Somalia border for refugees from Somalia. While the people he claims to represent are in fact fleeing and overcrowding the Dadaab refugee camps of Kenya in search of food and water. So why is the Meles Zanawi regime opening refugee camps for citizens of other countries while his own are starving to death? Maybe so he can restore his tarnishing image or maybe so he can bank and pocket few more foreign aid programs in the name of these poor refugees?

I urge the international community to review their policy towards the current Ethiopian regime and to look further into the horn of Africa crises as the Ogaden is the key to its solution.

Lastly, everyone loves peace, but it has to be peace that is comprehensive, recognized by the international community, that is viable and consistent. The Ogaden needs peace that is in harmony with the international law and standing. Hundreds of thousands of our people have been systematically killed and millions are today suffering in the hands of the Meles Zanawi regime. Most importantly, we need a peace deal that would see our people's right to decide their future through a referendum. I would also like to remind my readers that the same peace deal Meles is offering our people today is the same one our grandfathers were offered 100 years ago. What we need however is an ever-lasting peace, one that would put our people's fate on their hands.