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Nov 13, 2012

Ethiopia: Little Hope for an End to Ogaden Conflict

Addis Ababa — Many were hoping that recent peace talks between the Ethiopian government and Ogaden rebels would signal an end to the gruelling 18-year-old conflict. The latest round of talks, however, dashed all dreams of peace between the two sides.
Things have taken a turn for the worse. Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) founder and foreign secretary Abdirahman Mahdi told IPS that he currently cannot see a way for the talks to continue.
Ogaden is a territory in the southeast of the Somali Region in Ethiopia. And ONLF intellectuals have fought for an independent state there since the 1991 fall from power of Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.
However, peace talks between the ONLF and the Ethiopian government abruptly ended in a stalemate during the Oct. 15 to 17 discussions. Addis Ababa's negotiating team asked the ONLF to accept Ethiopia's constitution before the talks could continue. The ONLF refused, arguing that this was a breach of modalities agreed to in the first talks. As usual, each side blames the other.

"We need to begin by creating a dialogue - it is as if they had made a premeditated decision to abort the talks," Mahdi said. "There is no use beginning by demanding we agree to the constitution; this has always been our major point of contention."
While talks have been going on since March, the first official round took place from Sept. 6 to 7. It was also the first high-level negotiation involving Ethiopia's Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa and Mahdi. It was mediated by Kenyan Defence Minister Yusef Huji.
After the talks optimism was seemingly high on both sides. Government spokesman Dina Mufti said: "It is a positive first step."
And Mahdi said: "This could be the beginning of a useful process."
But since then Mahdi has told Ethiopia's negotiating team that the constitution should be chosen by the people and should not depend on one political party.
"Governments cannot just force the people to accept a constitution, they must hold a referendum," he said.
It was the constitution that set off the conflict between the ONLF and the present government in 1994. While the ONLF had joined forces with many of the Ethiopian government's current leaders to defeat Mariam, things quickly turned sour
13,Novemeber 2012
Allafrica

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