ONLF Open Letter-
UK tenders to train Ethiopian paramilitaries accused of abuses; Exclusive: documents seen by the Guardian detail £13-£15m government funding for ‘special police’ in Ogaden region:
This letter is in response to the Guardian article on the UK government’s support to the Ethiopian Special Police and the letters from DFID and the Ethiopian Embassy in London which specializes in sugar coating crimes perpetrated by the Ethiopian regime in Ogaden.
ONLF thanks the Guardian for airing this important issue. Brave journalists are the bane of all dictatorial regimes and the regime in Addis Ababa is so apprehensive in the media airing the crimes they are committing in ogaden, they have adopted the policy of shoot on sight of any journalist who venture to the Ogaden.
The Ogaden national Liberation Front (ONLF) would like to thank also the UK government for its public commitment to help the Somali people in Ogaden. However, development and security in the Ogaden will require justice, peace and stability that involve a resolution of the long-standing armed conflict that has blighted the Ogaden.
The assumption that the Special police or other security services that operate in the Ogaden can be professionalised without a robust commitment to investigate and prosecute them for their crime is deeply flawed. The ONLF supports calls for an independent investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations in the Ogaden. Therefore, ONLF is deeply concerned by the UK government’s decision to fund training for the special “Liyu“ police, who have committed widespread killings, summary executions, rape, destroyed of hundreds of villages, and displaced of more than hundred thousand people and committed other inhumane acts in the Ogaden.
The Liyu Police were set up by the Ethiopian government as a tool for counter-insurgency and control, meting out collective punishment to the Ogaden civilian population who hold aspirations for self-determination and an attempt to reframe the conflict between the ONLF and the Ethiopian government as an internal conflict within the Ogaden people. There have been no recent independent investigations into the Ethiopian Army’s crimes against humanity by international Humanitarian organisations and independent international media. Furthermore, it’s unfortunate that the UK government has decided to support the Ethiopian government when they have consistently refused access to international human rights agencies and media into the region to report on these crimes. If Ethiopia has nothing to hide, let it accept the recommendations of the UN human Rights council and allow an independent investigation by the UN human Rights rapporteur, international Human Rights organisations and unfettered access for international media.
Although providing training to the Liyu police will not change the balance of power in Ogaden, what is at risk in this decision is the neutrality of safety of international humanitarian actors – NGO’s, UN aid agencies and international Humanitarian effort in Ogaden. The funding of Liyu police training or other Ethiopian government oppressive security establishments by the UK government and the involvement of international NGO’s in their training will risk making it a part to the human rights violations of the Ogaden people in the eyes of the those who have suffered considerably at the hands of the Liyu police or those similar institutions. Therefore, no amount of re-branding of this paramilitary force or other similar oppressive instrument of the Ethiopian government will remedy the damage already done to the Ogaden civilians.
The Ogaden National liberation Front is deeply committed to finding a resolution to this conflict through political dialogue. Despite this provocative decision, it informs the UK government and international community, that ONLF will uphold its position of refraining from any attacks upon all civilians including all international NGO’s and other aid agencies in the Ogaden though it will not be able to guarantee their safety.
The ONLF kindly requests the UK government to amend this project in a way that is transparent and does not involve any of the warring parties or stop such project and instead concentrate on vigorously supporting an internationally mediated solution to the Ogaden conflict as it did in other parts of Africa. ONLF believes that this is the only way to attain a sustainable peace and stability in the whole Horn of Africa.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. Therefore, isn’t it insane that Ethiopian government keeps creating “ ONLF factions” or other terrorist groups and claiming to negotiate and reach peace agreements with them, while running away from the genuine mediation efforts by neutral third parties, such as the recent Kenyan government led effort and expecting the Ogaden conflict will evaporate into thin air. Accordingly, the Ethiopian government must realise that Peace and Justice are two sides of the same coin and it cannot have one while avoiding the other. The leadership of the current Ethiopian regime resided in London in the early seventies and eighties and if being dissents in a foreign country is a crime, they shall be the ones to be brought to trial.
Finally, it is an open secret that the Ethiopian government funds through proxies many of the extremists in the Horn of Africa, in order to ride the band-wagon of the War on Terror and hide the many crimes it commits against the Ogaden and its own people. ONLF is fighting for the right of the Somali people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination without any pre-conditions in an internationally supervised plebiscite. The Ogaden issue precedes the Ethiopian constitution or the situation in the failed state of Somalia and is a national liberation issues. Therefore, Ethiopia’s attempt to reduce it to a religious issues is cheap and has already failed. ONLF has no relationship with Al-Shabab or for that matter any other organization that professes the terror against unarmed civilians.
Issued by ONLF
22 January 2013