“LET GUNS BE SILENCED AND POLITICS DOMINATE,” BY MR OCALAN.
On the 21st of March 2013, following an intense secret peace talks with Turkish secret services, the imprisoned leader of Kurdistan workers party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan from his prison cell declared a permanent ceasefire with turkey and urge his supporters to move from armed struggle against Turkish government and embrace politics as means to achieve justice and freedom.
Can ONLF leaders from their hotel suites in western capitals call for peace process and lay down arms to give political solution a chance!!
In this brief writing I would like to discuss and assess the similarities and differences between Kurdish struggle and that of Ogaden struggle for nationhood.
KURDS VS. OGADENIANS
Unlike the Somalis of Ethiopia (Ogaden) who have brethren independent nation called Somali Republic, the Kurds are said to be the world’s largest stateless people, divided between four regional countries (Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria)
They are THE most divided ethnic group in western Asia. Their struggle for independence and statehood has been long and hard, but in today’s fast and rapid change of the midleast political maps where Kurds in Iraq have oil rich semi-independent regions for decades, and where Syrian Kurds feel they are THE king makers in future of Syria their dreams might be to some extent realised.
SIMILARITIES & DIFFERENCES
As mentioned in the above paragraph, unlike in Ogaden which is occupied by one state-Ethiopia- the Kurds are under occupation from four different nations, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria who all conspired against Kurds. As in Ogaden the Kurds are in geographically strategic location that is rich in oil and other minerals.
they are also culturally distinct ethnic group, they been denied the most basic rights, e.g. even in today’s modern turkey it is still illegal to speak Kurdish language in state Institutions, illegal to celebrate Kurdish traditional event such as Newros(neyruus) the Kurdish new year. With exception of Iraq Kurds where Kurdish enjoyed a decade of
autonomous self-rule status since first gulf war of 1991, in fact in today’s federal Iraq Kurd emerged the most prosperous and peaceful region in whole of Iraq, it became beacon of hope for the rest of Kurds in the regions. Kurdistan of Iraq became the bases where other Kurds nationalist movements seek inspiration and guidance from.
Although not to the level of Kurdistan, the Somali regions of Ethiopia had its fair share of autonomy for last 23 years, in 1992, the EPRDF who overthrew Mengistu dictatorship, devised a new constitution which established an ethnic based federals system in Ethiopia, where every ethnic group are allowed to self-autonomous rule. Perhaps more importantly the new constitution enshrined an article that in principle allowed self-determination for ethnics regions if they wish for.
Today Somali regions of Ethiopia have its elected local parliament, local government. Somali language is officially used in all institutions; all civil servants must be competent in Somali language. local Courts are mainly sharia complaints this is a significant step for Muslim population.
ONLF VS. PKK
Founded in 1970s PKK who drew its ideology from leftist and communist, lead low intensity conflict against state of turkey, their stated aim and mission is to gain self-determination for nearly 25 million Kurds in Turkey. But In the 1990s, the organisation (PKK) rolled back on its demands for an independent Kurdish state, calling instead for more autonomy for the Kurds. The organisation pursued their goals mainly through violence where they targeted both state and civilian institutions and infrastructure, since 1984 more than 40,000 people lost their lives. In 1999 the PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan was captured in Kenya and tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in turkey. On 21st of March and after 29 years of conflict, PKK leader called “Let guns be silenced and politics dominate”.
ONLF on other hand was founded in 1980s by a group of youth who felt betrayed, deceived and hijacked their struggle for statehood by successive Somali governments. As PKK, ONLF’s stated mission is to achieve self-determination for ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia, it been an elusive goals to achieve, for almost century the Ogaden people unsuccessfully fought wars after wars to pursue their dreams.
ONLF took arms in 1993-4 and declare war against Ethiopian government, since then the organisation led low level conflicts against army, many people on both sides lost their lives and many more fled the country. Unlike PKK, ONLF has not been labelled terrorist organisation by international community. ONLF engaged a low level talk with Ethiopian government which failed due to ONLF’s refusal to accept Ethiopian constitution as bases for negations.
TURKEY VS. ETHIOPIA
Turkey is democratic state, that supposedly protects the rights of its citizen, but that is not true with Kurds minorities, hundreds of civilans and civil society activists are held in detentions for long period of time without trial. Moreover the Kurds are not allowed some of most basic right such as the right to use their language in state institutions, Kurdish traditions such newroz is illegal be publicly celebrated.
In its annual reports, human right watch accuses Turkish state with wide range of human right violations including detentions of journalists, lawyers and other civil society activists without trials.
Ethiopia is in worse situation in term of human right violations than Turkey, in fact according to human right watch, Ethiopian record of human right violation especially when it comes to freedom of expression, media, political is extremely restrictive. The detention of journalist, human right activist and political opponents of the regime in Addis Ababa is frequently used. that said, its Ethnic based Federal system and fact that the constitution contains article that allows regions to autonomous rule up-to-self-determination, give hope.
For 21 years ONLF led armed conflict against Ethiopian government. the conflict descended the region into chaos. Thousands of young men and women lost their lives during this period. Today ONLF gained none of its declared objectives; in fact, some argue, it has lost the support of many people. Compared to rest of Ethiopian regions e.g. Oromo region or ahmara regions Somali regions lugs well hind in terms of infrastructure development, educations, employments, security foreign investment. Many blame ONLF for the lack of development in regions. The Ethiopian regimes its parts used the conflict as an excuse to implement wide range measures to suppress freedom of movement, trade, communication etc.
Recently Ethiopian government started a range of economical support infrastructure projects such as building roads, telecommunication, ease of trade and business, the government also invited diaspora led investment, and these steps significantly changed Ethiopian image in many people’s minds.
The is region strategically located as Ethiopian economic gateway and with right policies and politics the region has the potential to become self-sufficient in short period of time. With this in mind we say:
1. ONLF must realise that a genuine lasting peace cannot and will not be achieved by gun, that is simple truth.
2. ONLF should and must re-evaluate itself, and its Strategic objectives and goals, the horn of Africa is going through dramatic changes that needs to be considered carefully.
3. The leadership of the organisation must initiate inclusive, genuinely open and democratic debate on the future of the struggle. What do we want? Have we achieved
what we wanted? What have we achieved so far? If not why not? How can we achieve? Are there other options available? What is the cost (human, material, time) of each option? These are some of the questions that need to be asked.
4. for the sake of the living young and for the memory of many who were martyred in this conflict, let the guns be silenced and politics dominate.
By Abdi sagal
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