January 10, 2019.
ADDIS ABABA – Abdulrahman Mehadi, Secretary-General of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said that if the right and freedom of Somali people are respected, the front has no plan to raise query of secession.
In an exclusive interview with Ethiopian Press Agency, Abdulrahman said that if the Ethiopian constitution is respected, the front has no reason to secede Somali State from Ethiopia. Like any other nations, the Somali people have accepted the Ethiopian Constitution and it has the right to self-determination he said stressing that “As long as our rights are respected, we are going with it.”
Indicating that some people have various misconceptions in relation to ONLF goals, he said: “We never have a plan for the Somali state to secede from Ethiopia and establish Greater Somalia. We have been struggling for self-determination of the Somali people which is also recognized by Ethiopian constitution.” If the right of the people is violated, ONLF is forced to fight and leave the country.
If everyone’s right is respected, it can live together under the state. “The State does not own the people, but, the people own the state. The democratic state should be accountable for the people,” he said. Responding to the question that the Front is affiliated with Al-Shabaab, the Secretary-General responded that ONLF hasn’t common objectives with Al-Shabaab and other [similar] groups.
“Let alone supporting the Front, Al-Shabaab killed the Front’s Council members and other senior leaders. Al-Shabaab has nothing to do with Somali people,” he added. Regarding the question that there were bombing and attacks in Ogaden for years and the government blamed the Front, Abdulrahman replied that “Our position is very clear. We were not targeting civilians and other ethnic groups, though there are many residing in Ogaden.
We respect the right of minorities; we do not target other nationalities. This is against our policy.” He was also asked to clarify the Front’s statement: “Without freedom no-one use the oil at Ogaden.” He responded: “Our organization has a very clear position in this regard. Every region has its own resources. The people have the right to use their resources. We have to negotiate as there must be equitable share. When there is a resource in a certain region, the local people have to get the best share.”
Appreciating the current reform, the Secretary-General said that the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has opened the political space. “So far, his position is very positive and he has taken positive steps. And the ONLF has made an agreement with the federal government, though much remains to be done.”
“We were in self-defense for the past 27 years. Now, the government led by Abiy has stopped the fight. Thus, we are operating peacefully, so why we engage in arms struggle and kill people?” he asks adding that the Front’s army is working jointly with state security forces.
Indicating that the organization is making preparation for the upcoming election, he noted that the front have been facing challenges in registering as legal contesting party. So we are expecting the government to do something.” ONLF was established in 1984 and has been operating for 34 years.