ONLF: WHAT IS THE POINT IN TALKING TO AN ORGANIZATION THAT IS IN TOTAL SHAMBLES?
There is a growing buzz lately about the ongoing talks between negotiators that are said to be representing the Ethiopian government and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Given the high stakes of these talks, it is also high-time to pause and ask the wisdom and the timing of these talks.
It is also prudent to ask whether or not these talks are also in the best interest of the Somali people, whom they have been tormenting for so long. After all, the Somalis are the biggest losers of this sensible war that has dragged far too long and, of course, started for the wrong reasons to begin with.
This war has been waged by the ONLF for over three decades and is one of the most painful afflictions that have happened to the Somali people when coupled with the wide political and socio-economic neglects of the Somali people by successive Ethiopian regimes.
In that spirit, to make a clear sense of whether it is worth to sit on a table with the beleaguered ONLF, it’s paramount that we clearly understand the motives of the parties involved as well as the organizational efficacy and the combat capabilities of the ONLF.
For those who have been following the ONLF closely for the last decade or so, this is not a point of contention. Most observers agree that the ONLF and the ideas that it stands for has been rendered irrelevant while it’s combat capabilities are degraded substantially to the point that people ask themselves sarcastically, ‘where is the so-called ONLF by the way’?
Most of these observes also agree that the ONLF has been rendered irrelevant by a combination of factors including the fact that its political and organizational ineptitude has clannish twist and ineffective leadership in its core while public appetite for the insurgency and its mission has dwindled dramatically. They also agree that changes in the security architecture of the Region has also played major role in its ultimate demise especially, its combat capabilities.
So, let’s square back to the question of, are the Somali people, and of course other Ethiopians by extension, the ultimate beneficiaries from a deal between the ONLF and the Ethiopian government-which is the argument that is often raised in favor of a peace deal between the Ethiopian Government and the ONLF. Sadly, that it is not the case.
It seems though, that those in favor of the current negotiations, assuming they have good faith, are basing their assumptions on ONLF’s efficacy and capabilities during its early years in where it enjoyed relative popularity among the Somalis due to legitimate grievances against subsequent Ethiopian regimes.
Among those grievances are; brutal oppression, recurring massacres, socioeconomic abandonment and political exclusions from every sort of Ethiopian regime-from the centuries old imperialists to the self-styled socialist Derg to the current EPRDF regime.
However, the ONLF is in such a dire state that it cannot even lift a finger. It is an organization that has been in political and military comma for close to a decade now. Their current vegetative state is a sharp decline from the apex it has reached during the years that run up to the famous Obole incident in which nine Chinese nationals, scores of Ethiopian military and other local government militias were killed.
As the reality on the ground attests to, the last remaining pockets of this insurgency has quelled and their whole ideas and ideals has been rendered useless. What they stand for that couldn’t stand scrutiny is their clannish, self-centered and backward-looking ideas that under-pinned their struggle while masquerading as freedom fighters.
What is also without doubt is that, the Somali people are freedom and peace loving people. They would fight relentlessly with any force that threatens their freedom and peace. That is why they resisted colonization and oppression of any kind for centuries. That is why they resisted, and finally overcame, this malice of an organization and its treacherous ideas.
In that context, what is mystifying is the wisdom of trying to reach a deal with an organization that is almost politically nonexistent, has no combat capability and doesn’t control any territory not to mention its obsolete ideas that failed to get traction among the Somali masses no to mention the fact that it is an organizationally that is in total shambles.