By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – The Sovereignty of Somaliland is entirely a matter for relevant stakeholders to address and solve through negotiations as revealed by the chairman Ogaden National Liberation Front- ONLF Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman during an exclusive electronic interview with Somalilandsun.
“We believe that the Somaliland and Somali people themselves shall solve their problem peacefully through a mutually agreed peaceful settlement, through negotiations. We do not advocate any particular view regarding those issues since we do not represent any group and have no right to do so” said the Admiral
The Admiral who says his organization is not a terrorist organization also gave his views on issues related to the ONLF relationship with Eritrea and Al-Shabaab, his quest for contact with Somaliland officials, the continued struggle in Ethiopia, enhanced diplomatic coups by ONLF and his vision of the Horn of Africa among others.
Read below the full verbatim excerpts of the rare interview with the chairman Ogaden National Liberation Front- ONLF Admiral Mohamed Omar Osman
Has the recent increase in international engagements by the ONLF resulted in any discernible impact?
A- ONLF is a national Liberation struggle that is conducting a protracted, mass based struggle for the achievement of the right of self-determination for the Somali people under Ethiopian rule. ONLF international engagement has raised the profile of the plight of the Somali people under the inhumane Ethiopian colonial rule. It has shown the world the human rights violations committed by the Ethiopian regime. At the same time, ONLF engagement with the international community ha clarified two important aspects. First, it has shown that the conflict in Ogaden was not a border conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia. Instead it was a struggle by the Somalis in Ogaden for their in alienable right to self-determination and decolonization as enshrined in the UN charter. Secondly it showed that ONLF is a genuine liberation front, and not as portrayed by the Ethiopian regime as an organization using religion as a means to attain political goals and that ONLF is only fighting the Ethiopian regime and does not operate outside Ogaden borders and engages positively with the international community. ONLF succeeded in achieving all those objectives.
ONLF was in Kenya, South Africa, Minnesota-USA and other Countries in Europe, were these meetings and conferences sanctioned by governments of Host Nations?
A- ONLF is not a proscribed terrorist organization and engages with most countries of the world in a positive manner. In addition Ogaden civic organisations are very active in those countries you mentioned and advocate peacefully the rights of the Ogaden people. Besides, the Ogaden communities in those countries are active citizens and tax payers who advocate for the plight of their people and their right to self determination.
What is the progress of reported talks with the Ethiopian Government?
A- As you may be aware of the talks stalled last year. Since then, there has been shuttle diplomacy and the efforts are continuing. ONLF is always ready for principled talks that are intended to address the core issues that are the drivers of the conflict.
How does Kenya fit into the ONLF talks with the Ethiopian government?
A- The Ethiopian government initiated theses talks and requested the Kenyan government for facilitation of the talks. Ever since, the Kenyan government has been trying its best to offer its good offices to both sides.
Does your Organization still maintain links with Eritrea, if so, to what end?
A- The Eritrean people and the Somali people in Ogaden have been comrades in arms since the late fifties, when the plights of the two peoples were placed under Ethiopian rule without their consent. Therefore, the relationship between the two people was established long time ago and based on their mutual interests.
Is the ONLF linked to Al-Shabaab?
A- ONLF has never had a link with Al-Shabaab and does not intent to establish one. In fact, Al-Shabaab has assassinated more than eight high level officers of ONLF. In general, ONLF is neutral towards the conflict in Somalia and is not ready to be drawn into that conflict and Al-Shabaab is part of that conflict.
What is the position of ONLF on the sovereignty of Somaliland?
A- First, ONLF is neutral toward the Somali people in Somalia. ONLF believes in the well being of all Somalis regardless of which area they live. As for the political future of Somalis, ONLF believes that the Somali people themselves shall solve their problem peacefully through a mutually agreed peaceful settlement, through negotiations. We do not advocate any particular view regarding those issues since we do not represent any group and have no right to do so.
Has there ever been contact with Somaliland authorities, if so what purpose and if not why?
A- We tried many times to establish dialogue with Somaliland Authorities. Unfortunately, as with all Somalis in the Horn of Africa, including Djibouti, the fear of the Ethiopian regime clouds their judgment and makes them shun engagement with ONLF despite the ethnic, social, political, and economic relationship with the Somalis in Ogaden.
What is your vision of the Ogaden region in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa?
A- The Crux of the conflict in the Horn of Africa is the Ogaden territory. Finding a satisfactory and peaceful settlement of the conflict is beneficial to all parties concerned. That peaceful settlement can only be achieved if the Somalis in Ogaden are allowed to exercise their right to self-determination through an internationally supervised free and fair referendum. ONLF will respect the will and desire of the Somali people in Ogaden.
Kindly brief on your road to the ONLF
A- When I was a teenage, with my family in the Ogaden rural area herding the family camels, Ethiopian Soldiers camp to our area. One of the Soldiers kicked me and threw me to the ground and humiliated my parents in front of me. I decided from that day onwards that I will take part in the liberation of my people. I left our village and went to Mogadishu and primary school there in the late fifties. Then I became a teacher. After that, I joined the Somali Army and was trained as a navy officer. I held many positions in the navy and other government roles; I finally became an Admiral commander of the Somali Navy and member of the chief of staff. In 1991, when Somalia civil war started, I decided to continue the struggle of my people and joined ONLF. In 1998, I was elected to lead ONLF and ever since I am still continuing the struggle I decided to wage when I was a teenager, since nothing has changed.