The Peace Talks Between the ONLF and the Ethiopian Government Stall (ONA)
October 17, 2012
The second round of peace talks between the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government mediated by Kenya was held in Nairobi between 15 to 17 October 2012. Abdirahman Mahdi, ONLF Foreign Bureau Secretary, led the ONLF delegation. The Ethiopian delegation was led by the Defense Minister Seraj Fegesa. The Kenyan government mediation team was led by Kenyan Defense Minister H.E. Mohamed Yusuf Haji. The Kenyan government hosted the talks.
The Ethiopian government requested the Kenyan government to facilitate talks with the ONLF. Then the Kenyan government approached ONLF, who accepted the invitation to engage in the process in a genuine and principled way.
In the first formal talks, the process went smoothly and the parties reached an agreement on the modalities, general principles and an agenda for the talks.
In the second round of the talks, the Ethiopian government delegation did not respect the principles agreed upon. These stated that “ the holding of negotiations must be in accordance with mutually acceptable principles and no preconditions shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations.” Instead the Ethiopian delegation tabled a contentious issue that was a key element of the conflict, by insisting that the continuation of the talks depends on the ONLF accepting the Ethiopian constitution. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian delegation blocked any attempts for the talks to move forward by imposing this precondition.
The ONLF position on the constitution is that it must reflect the will of the people and that the Somali people never exercised a referendum on the constitution. ONLF believes that the solution of the conflict in the Ogaden can only be achieved by accepting the principles of the right to exercise their self-determination without any preconditions or restrictions.
The peace process is supposed to address differences between the two sides on all issues. The ONLF proposed that the parties continue to talk in the spirit of the initial agreement and start with confidence building measures that will lay a fruitful and conducive environment for tackling the impasse at a later stage.
The ONLF is willing to continue engaging in a principled peace process with the Ethiopian government.