According to local somali media reports, the controversial UNPO organization recently elected as VP the leader of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) despite terrorism activities of the militia. ONLF leader Abdirahman Mahdi was chosen as the new vice-president of UNPO by the general assembly based in brussles.
Somali peace activists in the Ogaden region accused UNPO of giving credibility to a terrorist group that has been blamed for several assassinations of officials and killings of pro-govt somalis in eastern Ethiopia. Over the last two decades, international media has reported on ONLF committing civilian mass murders near development projects in Ethiopia, creating a state of fear and instability in the region. The rebel group has also killed dozens of non-ogaden clan somalis belonging to the Issa and Issaaq clans. Some of the location of alleged massacres by ONLF include Aware, Iimay,Qoraxay, Danood, Wardheer and Jigjiga districts.
Peace activists in Jigjiga town noted the UNPO membership covanent in support of pluralism, democracy and non-violence; which they say are all violated by the ONLF militia. Accordingly, UNPO should be held indirectly responsible for the crimes committed by ONLF, they added.
The Ogaden region has been in crisis for decades as successive Ethiopian dictatorial regimes battle local rebellion. Addis Ababa government has been blamed for brutal crackdown on the ONLF rebels.
The ONLF has also been widely criticized by local somalis for its use of the word “ogaden” to label the region. Most of northern half of “Ogaden” region of today is made up of non-Ogaden clans, including the Issa and Isaaq clan which also dominate the Republic of Somaliland.
Despite claims by the ONLF, an “Ogaden nation” did not exist historically. The idea of “ogadenia” state was created in 1984 in order for the ONLF movement to gain credibility internationally.
For over 1,200 years, the land was historically contested between Somalis, Abyssinians, Oromos and Arabs. After the migration of the first followers of the Prophet Mohammed to Aksum, more meccan tribes began to migrate to the horn of Africa. The “ogaden” region was originally discovered by the mostly semetic Walashama dynasty that established various sultanates in the area. The land was always contested by the other semetic nation: Abyssinia. The Arabs mixing with Afars and Somalis, continued to establish powerful empires including the Adal Empire. Then Adal (with its capital city centered in the Isaaq-led Zeila) managed to overpower the Aksum/Abyssinian kings. However, the Aksumites later defeated Adal when the Portugese interfered to counter the Ottoman empire’s support for the Adal. This complex background of the region has kept it severely undeveloped and contested. It is unknown which somali clan first settled on what is today “Ogaden” and the idea of an “Ogadenia” nation is controversial in somali society.