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Who Does the ONLF Represent? A Response:

By Abdiaziz Haji Dool
Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Ismail Ahmed had such a potential and promise with me, at the onset of his article—Who does the ONLF represent?—with his starting off questions, for I hoped, as I read-on, that he would provide objective answers to them; perhaps, a little bit of tough-love and constructive criticism with honest solutions to match for the troubles in the Ogaden region was in the offing I thought. Unfortunately, his whole analysis of the situation in the Ethiopian Somali region, zone 5, is nothing short of a manifestation of a concocted, subjective day-dream-state—totally divorced from reality!


The very long tour, for starters, which was an attempt on his part to convey incontrovertible proof of the vast territories and its superior population in number of the non-Ogaden (his words) Somali Ethiopians against the meager patch of land and its handful Ogaden inhabitants(his insinuations), was misleading at best.


I thought it was telling of where he was headed with his not so-clever and obviously slanted representation of facts on the ground there when he held up Fiiq and its emaciated poor residents as land and people of the Ogaden Somalis; in contrast to places, from Hawash valley, Dire Dawa, Harar to Babile, which neither the regime in Addis Ababa had conceded as Somali lands nor Somalis there have been for quite some time now in the running for even a viable minority—the very reason Addis Ababa would not even consider them as Somali territories!


Truth and fairness would have demanded of him, if his conscience was receptive to them, to mention the overwhelmingly Somali inhabited land—yes, the Ogaden—from Feerfeer, Shilaabo, Qalaafe, Qoraxay, Qabri Dahar, Goddey, Dhanaan, Shaygosh, Wardheer, Gallaadi, El-Haar, Malayko, Doolo, Awaare, Shineele and Dhagah Buur.


By the way, I am one of those, according to him, non-Ogaden Somalis—as I am none other than one of the sons of Haji Dool of whom he had mentioned as a signatory to a lasting peace accord in Jigjiga area. Personally, I would have thanked him for his kind words in regards to my father, if it was not for his sinister designs, which had not escaped on me, to use my father’s good deeds as means to his end of separating me from my brothers in their hour of dire need for relief from natural disasters, of drought and starvation, and a violent state prosecution.


It is one thing to criticize the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) for any alleged terror operations, as terrorism by any one anywhere does not only destroy innocent lives but also is poisonous to any cause however legitimate. His conclusions—which I assume he had only deduced from the very ONLF name, as he had not provided in his piece any other evidence to support his claim to this subject—that the Ogaden Somalis want or desire a government of, by and for, and a flag to boot, the Ogaden only flies in the face of the very history of the region. The Tigrean Peoples’ Liberation Font (TPLF), whose former leaders now run the whole Ethiopia, is a clear case-in-point. Very much like he had done in his article, I remember , not so long ago, Mingistu’s regime and his sycophants then charging the same with the TPLF. Yet, the  success of the TPLF in assuming power in Ethiopia had, on the whole, done more for minorities in Ethiopia than any previous regime there since Abyssinia! Simply, there is nothing wrong if people proud of their heritage want to associate their struggle with their own name!


And then, there was his narrative, which he related to the readers of his article, of an elderly, in his late 70s, Mayal Mohammud whom he claimed he had met. He talked about this man’s hate and curse of Isaq and Hawiye for bringing down Siad Barre’s rule that “stood for the welfare of the Darood people anywhere;” about his lamentations and regret, of “Darood Alliance” not fighting to the last drop of blood to keep Siad in power;” about his wishful desires, of the resuscitation or reincarnation back to life of Siad Barre! Here, I doubt very much such incident took place, at least not in the way Ismail Ahmed told it! Why not? Well, this man, Mayal Mohammud, who would have been in his late 50s when Mohammed Siad Barre’s regime was brought down, would have been fully aware of the fact that one Col. Mohammed Omar Jees, an Ogaden, was one of the principles, alongside Mohammed Farah Aideed, who put the final nail on the coffin of Mohammed Siad Barre’s regime—not to mention that those who opposed Siad Barre’s rule, when it was least fashionable and most dangerous, were the Majeerteen, a Darood clan. Either this man was living all this time under a rock or on another planet, or all this is from the figment of Ismail Ahmed’s run-away imagination spurred by one of his Khat (Awaday especially) chewing sessions! Clearly, the latter is more logical!


Personally, I am not against my brothers in the so-called Somaliland, for I wish them all the best; but the false assertion, by Ismail Ahmed, that Somaliland is an independent state with its recognized borders—something which clearly has not happen yet—is another proof of  his in the twilight zone, contrary to quantifiable reality, state of thinking! Also, yet another incredible fiction, for Mr. Ismail, is to superimpose the methods used in the Hutu-Tutsi interethnic genocide in Rwanda on methods used by Mohammed Siad Bare’s regime to prosecute the people in the Northwest, the so-called Somaliland nowadays! 5000 killed in Barbara with LONG KNIVES, Really? Now, I have heard many horrific stories about indiscriminate areal bombardments and other modern machinery employed by the previous regime in Somalia against people in the Northwest of Somalia, but none of them involved with knives!     


Ismail Ahmed had clearly not spared any effort not to hide or shy away his contempt of the Ogaden Somalis as a group; so much so that he highlighted in his article their miseries, for not to show sympathy or to alarm the world to their plight, but to display his euphoric delight about it. His thinking represented in his article can only come from an intellectually Pigmy-sadist; otherwise, if he was a reasonable human being, he would not have dared to call such proud people, his fellow Somalis, who have been existing and thriving for centuries in one of the arid and inhospitable piece of lands here on earth, as people who detest work and would rather choose a handout and a begging profession. It is rather that, no doubt, even in their difficult circumstances, they had spared no effort—to the point of giving up shirts on their backs—to honor him as their guest, for I personally found them to be true to that old and tested Somali, nomadic hospitality disposition of going extra miles to be good and kind hosts of strangers! If they were such animals, who hate his kind, they would have had him for a lunch!


Then there was his stark lie about the non-Ogaden Somalis unanimously severing the ties with their brothers, the Ogaden, that they boycotted them. Nothing is further from the truth. He mistakes lack of goods and people freely flowing from one area to another because of insecurity and violent struggle in one corner for a conscious decision, forget about it being unanimously implemented, to sever ties or boycott. People and goods still move, all be it in a dripper.


What he should have done in his article, if he was a better thinker, something clearly he is incapable, was to show the futility of the ONLF’s military campaigns in its timing, given the circumstances which prevail in the whole region.


There is nothing wrong, and it should not be apologized at all for, with people who have been under the yoke of successive brutal regimes in Addis Ababa to resist, even with legitimate violence, their tormentors; this is the birth right of  any human beings anywhere! However, violent resistance for resistance sake, especially when its effects will affect more human lose and disaster for the very people on whose behalf any liberation movement toils than gain, should be abandoned temporarily; it should be replaced by other means of resisting; in other words, resistance shall never be let up or abandoned, only the means to enhance and further it should be adopted to the time and circumstances! Violence should never be the only tool in any group’s resistance toolbox; if it is, what have they gained, even if they achieve their goal with it at the end, if most of their precious capital, people and land, are decimated?


Such is the time that the ONLF shelves its military campaigns for now. Even the PLO with billions of petro-dollars and 22 Arab countries behind it had recognized the need to change, not given-up resistance, from one method to another. ONLF’s leaders should seriously entertain to enter into negotiations, not with Addis Ababa, with the rest of their brothers in the region. It is time that the Ogaden Somalis, as incontestably the clear majority group in the Somali region, zone 5, assume their leadership position and drive the agenda and the case for the region. United, the Somali people there will have the opportunity to take Addis Ababa to task, in a new, strengthen and peaceful political wave of resistance, such as demanding from Addis Ababa to demilitarize the zone, to remove, limit and restrict the non-Somali settlements there, to heavily invest in the region, to give the lion-share to the region any proceeds from oil and gas found there.


Why would I prefer this kind of resistance over violent one at this point? Well, one has to recognize that as long as Somalia—the mother land of all Somalis and to which this region belonged—is without effective government, violence struggle against Addis Ababa, with its carte blanche from Washington in the name of fighting against terrorism, will be severely injurious to the very survival of my brothers in the Ogaden; fighting there, with all its negative by-products of flow of essentials to the people restricted, coupled with the drought-stricken climate of the area, horrific lose of human life and livestock—the main stable—will be the rule there, with not much remedy from outside world.


In conclusion, for the last 17 years of Somali history, it seems as if though we Somalis have been infected with a mind virus which readily makes us Somalis turn on each other; even when some of us are under foreign occupation, such as in Western Somalia (AKA Ogaden), we use language and thinking, that we should and would have otherwise reserved for the enemy, against each other. Ismail Ahmed, if I had the opportunity of one-on-on, face to face meeting with him, would have received a forceful scolding from me for my rightly-so indignation over his archaic, dark ages thinking. Constructive criticism is what we rather need, which should rather add to us, as one unit, than subtract from us! It is beyond me, by a wholesale stereotyping of his fellow flesh and blood or to find glee and good cheer over their suffering, what Ismail Ahmed was to profit from writing divisive, full of lies article! When all is said and done, the Ogaden Somalis in the occupied Somali region, zone 5—a 2.5 million out of the 4 million estimated Somalis there—will have, one way or another, the convincing say-so over the affairs of this particular region. No matter how hard Ismail Ahmed wishes for or lies about will ever change the facts about the demographics on this particular Somali region! He should take that from a non-Ogaden Somali!    


Abdiaziz Haji Dool


E-mail: [email protected]


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