ONLF to Seek Self-Determination Vote


A rebel group in Ethiopia said it will demand a referendum on self-determination for the country’s troubled, gas-rich Somali region during landmark peace talks with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government.

The plan by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which has staged a low-level insurgency in Ethiopia’s east for over three decades, comes as Abiy invites once-banned opponents to take part in elections. The demands may aggravate a scramble for the region’s energy resources, including natural gas reserves the government estimates will eventually earn it $7 billion a year.

At stake are an estimated 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Ogaden Basin, where exports are due to begin 2021 via a pipeline to neighboring Djibouti. A unit of China Poly Group Corp. has also started testing oil deposits.

“We want to achieve self-determination recognized by international law under the current Ethiopian constitution,” Ahmed Yassin Abdi, the ONLF’s foreign secretary, said by phone from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “We want our people to have a right to decide.” He said his group has no preconditions for the talks. The region’s new president expressed support for greater autonomy.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country after Nigeria, is a federation designed to give autonomy to its dozens of ethnic groups. The ONLF has long maintained that the Somali regional state, which it calls the Ogaden and borders war-torn Somalia, hasn’t been properly represented by the federal government.

Ethiopia’s constitution enshrines the rights of people with “a large measure” of common culture, customs, language, identity and “psychological makeup” in an “identifiable, predominantly contiguous territory” to seek self-determination and even establish their own states.
Seeking Settlement

The ONLF, which took up arms in 1984 and has been an intermittent threat to regional authorities, declared a cease-fire at a July meeting of its leaders in Eritrea, pending what Ahmed calls an unspecified “comprehensive political settlement.”

Its largest attack was in April 2007 on a site in the Somali region — operated by China’s Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau — where it killed nine Chinese workers and 65 Ethiopians. Ahmed said that was justified because the then-government sought to produce gas “without consent of our people.”

While he wouldn’t disclose the number of armed fighters the ONLF has, the figure is thought to be significantly diminished from a decade ago.

Click here for a story on Ethiopia’s nascent oil and gas industry

A special police force in the Somali region has been notorious for its alleged counter-insurgency tactics, with accusations it jailed and tortured people suspected of having ONLF sympathies. Since the regional president, based in the local city of Jijiga, was ousted by federal forces in August, authorities and the group haven’t clashed, according both to Ahmed and the new state president, Mustafa Omer.

“There are some areas where we agree,” Mustafa said in an interview in the national capital, Addis Ababa. “Yes, we want more autonomy for our region, genuine self-rule.”

While the cease-fire predates Mustafa’s rule as a response to Ethiopia’s recent sweeping reforms, the ONLF is supporting the new president because “he can make a difference in clearing the system and creating a new political environment,” Ahmed said. “We have agreed to work together to seek more rights for the Somali people.”

Mustafa said regional authorities are letting the ONLF mobilize grassroots support and he’ll help arrange its formal talks with Abiy’s government in the coming weeks. The president welcomed the possibility of the ONLF taking part in federal elections slated for 2020.

Ahmed said the ONLF will discuss the possibility of its disarmament with the government, and, should the negotiations face difficulty, Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has offered support in the talks. Once a deal is reached, the ONLF may compete in elections, he said.

“We need to have a negotiation — agreement on a comprehensive political settlement, and peace in the Ogaden — then oil companies can come and explore,” Ahmed said.


  1. Just desire to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is just nice and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.|

  2. Fascinating blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple adjustements would really make my blog stand out. Please let me know where you got your theme. Cheers|

  3. Hello there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!|

  4. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for excellent information I was looking for this info for my mission.|

  5. I used to be suggested this blog by means of my cousin. I’m not certain whether this submit is written by way of him as nobody else recognize such specified about my problem. You’re wonderful! Thanks!|

  6. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, however I really thought you would probably have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something that you can fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.

  7. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how can we communicate?|

  8. Having read this I believed it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!|

  9. This is the perfect site for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You understand so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject that’s been written about for many years. Wonderful stuff, just wonderful!|

  10. This very blog is no doubt educating and also informative. I have picked helluva useful stuff out of this blog. I ad love to go back over and over again. Thanks!

  11. I believe everything published was actually very reasonable. But, think on this, what if you were to create a killer headline? I ain’t saying your content is not good, however suppose you added a post title that makes people want more? I mean BLOG_TITLE is a little vanilla. You might peek at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write news titles to grab viewers to open the links. You might try adding a video or a picture or two to grab people interested about everything’ve written. In my opinion, it could make your posts a little bit more interesting.|

  12. Simply desire to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your submit is just spectacular and that i could think you are knowledgeable on this subject. Fine along with your permission allow me to seize your RSS feed to stay up to date with imminent post. Thanks one million and please keep up the rewarding work.|


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here