By: Dr. M.Ugas
When I read Muktar M. Omer’s article of “ONLF: Time for Admiral Osman to Go” on Wardernews on Feb 13, 2012, I decided to enlighten the young writers with the right parameters to measure the progress of any liberation struggle. But, sadly Wardheernews.com refused to publish my article, because my views did not match what they are meant to.
The author started his paper saying “I am only trying to salvage the struggle, not to weaken it” That could in fact be a good intention, but after reading the result of his analysis, many innocent people may think that he made a profound research on the subject he judged and his intentions were good. However, there are many insights that the writer indispensably needed to consider before evaluating the kind of progress a liberation front may make or may be expected. There are a number of parameters that he hasn’t used to determine the growth of ONLF and whether they are making progress or not. There are scores of yardsticks that could be employed to quantify the progress of such a kind of entity and some of the parameter may have a good deal of weight than others, while many indicators of success may have less than one percent weight. The reason that compelled me to comment on Mukhtar’s judgment is that several people may not search the reliability of the result of his analysis, because if the reliability of his finding is very low, his whole message will be discredited.
Quoting again the writers statements, he said “We cannot fault the ONLF leadership for their efforts. They tried their best. But, in the end, we judge them by their results, not by their efforts”. As a rule of the thumb that is common sense to attract the attention of the readers, and I will agree with you to use this as a concluding balance for our final judgement.
I do not mean to defend ONLF or the Admiral, but just for the common good, to edify the writer of this article a superior message that would help him in the future to make a fine judgement before he tries to evaluate and analyse such a kind of complex organisation that consist of social, political, military, diplomatic, environmental as well as historical anecdote. I would like to coach the young writer the right parameters that he must have used by disproving his findings as shown in the following statements:
In liberation struggles, survival is tolerable as a benchmark of success only in the battlefields, faced against a mightier adversary. A liberation front, fighting for a just cause, cannot be expected to be content with survival for more than two decades. It must make progress; it must win new allies; it must broaden its support base. Far from achieving this, the ONLF is stagnating. There is no single idea, strategy or support base that has joined the Front for over a decade.
As I said before, there is one immense inaccuracy the writer made. He used off beam parameters to measure the development that a liberation struggle could be expected to compose. While the writer was making this analysis, he completely ignored that at this very moment, the most inhuman acts of barbarism and cannibalism are being perpetrated in Ogaden by the criminal Neo-Nazi Abyssinian thugs of the tyrant Meles Zenawi, using Janjawit-like militia they named Liyu-police as death squads who shamelessly impersonate the only force. Hence the writer put his emphasis on his mere subjective judgment of what he did not have a handle on it very much.
In order to measure the success of any liberation organisation, the young writer should have used the following indicators of success: The mission of the organisation; the impression of the world towards the fighting organisation; the power of the occupying regime or government whatever you call it over the liberation organisation; the support of the people in the region to the organisation; the military might of the struggle; the organization’s allies; and the political flexibility of the struggle; These are only seven of the ten important factors that we can measure the nature of advancement a liberation struggle could make. The other three are exceptionally very internal and only insiders can understand and measure them. But, idle people like my friend Mukhtar and I cannot assess them without further in-depth investigation.
Those questions could be subjectively answered, but it may be biased to put them qualitatively in a categorized way if we simply measure the outcome as less or more, small or big, good or bad. On the other hand, one requires to have their original numbers when one has to quantify their current numbers. Mukhtar doesn’t seem to have all these in hand when he started writing his inoperative speech. Let me shed some light on these seven factors:
What was the mission of ONLF? The answer is freedom, and freedom cannot come overnight. Abwan Dhodan has perfectly answered in one of his poems, by saying “ninkii ilo biyo leh moodayoow waa ban omana ahe” literally meaning that “those who think freedom is spring of water is not true but rather waterless prairies”. One can then ask if ONLF is on the right track of making Ogaden free or not. Before one rushes answering it, let him/her read the answers to the other parameters.
What is the impression of the world towards ONLF? Before 1990s, the world was divided on the issue of defining the basket of a liberation organisation. But, now the matter is based on historical and factual points and how the actions of any freedom fighter could be aligned with their missions and the kind of human rights violations they are making. There is no doubt that the world knows very much that the Ogaden liberation struggle is the pioneers of the Somali nationalism in the Horn of Africa. The world welcomes the struggle in many official and unofficial meetings. The world hasn’t labelled ONLF as a terrorist organisation. Let alone anything else, European Union has finally reached a stage to ticket the EPRDF regime to be terrorists after Ethiopia openly refused the UN-Fact finding mission of 2008 after Obole to be published. The international media, especially the most prominent scholarly magazines, such as New York Times, Washington Post, News Week, the Economist, Al-Sharqil Awsat, etc regularly write articles and findings of the gloomy situation of the Somalis in the Ogaden and document how genuine the war of ONLF is. There is no disbelief that you have heard how heroically the world journalists are trying to visit the Ogaden and how they risk their precious lives to expose how Somalis are oppressed in the Ogaden. The congress of the United States government which was a great ally of Ethiopia ultimately passed Bill C-2003 to press Ethiopia to stop oppression in the Ogaden. In the history of Ogaden, it is the first time that there are more than 60 MPs (member of parliaments) throughout the world, who are openly advocating within and outside their areas of influences for the freedom of the Ogaden. There are more than 25 international Universities that the young patrons of the struggle hold enlightenments every year. These are all successes that ONLF is to be accredited to under the leadership of Admiral M.O.Osman.
What is the power of the occupying regime or government whatever you call it over the liberation organisation? The writer may not be sentient of the reason Ethiopia has been occupying the Ogaden. As witnessed by many, there are over 80 million Ethiopians in the highland whose land is completely dead. The situation in the highland is already unsustainable, and parts of the area are in a Malthusian trap with poor farmers eating up the land, with soil degradation and soil losses due to deforestation. The Ogaden region is the only region that is rich in natural resources, rivers, creeks, streams, cultivable valleys, rangeland, livestock, gas, petroleum, frank cense, you name it. Ethiopia is not able and will not be able to exploit the natural resources in the Ogaden. In all the federal states of the world, the property rights and natural resources belong to the provinces or states, while Article 40 of the new Ethiopian constitution endorses that the natural resources is the sole responsibility of the federal government. This means that, the state or provincial governments does not have any articulation over any natural resource exploited from their very own land. If ONLF clogged Ethiopia from fulfilling this flawed article, isn’t this a progress made by ONLF?
What is the support of the people in the region to ONLF? You can measure the progress on this point from different perspectives. Remember the number of social organisations that existed in the past which support the cause. Under the mandate of ONLF offices in the abroad, there are more than five social organisations which are officially registered in every country that support the struggle. The struggle is run by forces with the full support of those who trust the organisation. This is in fact an immense achievement and very significant progress that ONLF made so far.
What is the military might of ONLF struggle? Remember the days when EPRDF used to instigate the local clansmen to fight for minor issues by arming both sides in conflict; the last one being the battle of Ali Hassan and Huwan around Abaqorow where more than 240 innocent young men died from both sides in 1996. Later on, when EPRDF got tired of making this type of unsuccessful inspirations, they created Janjawit-like militia they named Liyu-police to create hatred among the clans and try to force them to tussle against one other. What caused these fights to stop since Abaqorow? Anyone who knows the reality on the ground knows the answer. ONLF is there to intervene the hostility on the spot, and at times unarm the local clansmen when the skirmishing is about to occur. It is indeed an enormous accomplishment that the local people are very proud of their own struggle. Can you speculate how influential ONLF military might is in forcing the local people to bring to a halt burning of trees for charcoal? ONLF controls almost all the rural areas in the Ogaden and no one can deny it.
Has ONLF won allies? The other opposition groups in Ethiopia have all become futile and are not very much dissimilar from EPRDF. For instance, the mission of Amhara is to swap Tigrai as if their belongings were over taken by a minority group. The Oromo is divided into countless small groups with no direction. Sidama is not dreadfully active currently and not trying to be free or overhaul the power from Tigrai. These are the four important opposition groups which exist by name. None of them are fighting for freedom and yet, ONLF is in good term with all of them so far. No meeting takes place anywhere without the presence of ONLF.
Does ONLF have political flexibility? So long as there is an intellectual opportunism in Ethiopia, which is understood as a sign of lack of integrity or intellectual shallowness, to the extent that the opportunist is not concerned with the worth of the ideas in themselves, but only with how one can benefit from them, ONLF would opt to continue the struggle as usual and would not waste time with mere traps that does not match its mission. ONLF is flexible politically and has been asking the world to finish the matter on the table where the international community is present.
Anyway, the tyranny in Ogaden has taken the form of a large scale genocide carried out against seven millions of subjugated and dehumanized Somalis, who are deprived of water, food, life and hope. Killing for the purpose to kill is the order given by the monstrous dictator Zenawi to his new slaves in the Ogaden who are indulged to continue their cruel acts. The struggle for dignity and humanity, freedom and rights from the hell named 'Ethiopia', will stand to reason.
If Mukhtar labelled the Ogaden struggle to be fruitless, can he tell us who else is standing up to fight? Anyway, let us be optimistic and try to make good judgement on these kinds of sensitive issues that their realities are known by all Somalis, hoping that Mukhtar will benefit a lot from the kind of analysis I made and in the future would be very cautious not to hustle things that he did not comprehend much.