The Ethiopian regime has been organizing the past few days in Ogaden what it termed as “a national gathering for consultation with society.” The regime claims the participants of this gathering are composed of the entire strata of Ogaden society such as elders, religious leaders, social organizations, intellectuals and even communities in the Diaspora. But in reality, using its surrogate regional administration in the Ogaden – ‘the so-called Somali Regional State’ – the regime has instructed its district administrative operatives to round up and coerce elders, traditional and religious leaders to attend this gathering. Some business people based in the Gulf states, specially the Hawala bankers who were forced to pay large sums of money for the so-called Millennium Dam project, were are also instructed to attend the meeting.
In addition, prisoners from Jail Ogaden in Jigjiga were brought to the ‘conference’ and forced to humiliate themselves in front of their families by admitting to criminal acts they have not committed, which is contrary to Somali culture and religion – a shameful act which was meant to constitute an enduring stigma that will stick to the prisoners and their families. This angered the elders so much that some of them openly rebelled; subsequently one of the elders was tortured to death.
Furthermore, the participants were instructed to claim that they had accepted the Ethiopian constitution and that ONLF does not represent them. They were also forced to claim that there is peace and development in the ‘Somali region’ and that they are against the anti-peace elements, and vow to protect – in a typical North Korean style – the legacy of the ‘beloved father of the nation’ and preserve the ‘EPRDF revolution’.
This clearly proves ONLF’s refusal to accept the illegitimate Ethiopian constitution, which was not endorsed by the Ogaden people, has hit home and now the regime is trying to create artificial support for its constitution and rule.
No matter how much the regime forces the Ogaden civilian population under its rule to humiliate themselves in front of the cameras, as it did to the Swedish journalists, the world knows the true colours of this regime and will no longer be misled by its shameful posturing.
Finally, until the people of the Ogaden are allowed to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination, no amount of suppression, massacres and genocide, embargo or artificial endorsement conferences for the Ethiopian constitution will neither deter nor dent the Ogaden people’s just struggle.