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Breaking: ONLF pulls out of delayed election

Senior Leadership of ONLF. Photo: Juweria Ali

By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan

Addis Abeba, September 17/2021 – Abdi Mahdi, the chairman of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) told Addis Standard that the party is withdrawing from the upcoming second round of the national elections scheduled to take September 30, 2021.

He explained to Addis Standard that the decision was reached due to multiple factors. He said, “Our concerns were not addressed, our supporters were not registered to vote and most of the voting cards are housed with the ruling party members,” adding, “There is no sense in pursuing an election that has already been decided.”

News that other opposition parties operating in the Somali region have withdrawn from election were circulating with the ONLF complaining about the entire process and taking it to Social media .

Subsequently, the ONLF issued a detailed statement highlighting reasons behind the decision and future plans of the party.

The statement that was shared with Addis Standard read, “The Executive committee of ONLF held its ordinary meeting in Jigjiga, Somali state, between  September 7-10, and 16, 2021 and pondered on the dire situation that is developing in Horn  of Africa, Ethiopia, and the Somali state.  

The EC reiterated its firm commitment to non-violence and the pursue of its political aims  through dialogue and peaceful process despite the many challenges and unfair treatment  ONLF has be subjected to, since the peace agreement between the ONLF and the Ethiopian  government. However, to keep the current peace and stability in the Somali state all sides  must be genuine about keeping the peace. Since peace cannot be kept alone in a single state while war rages in other states of Ethiopia, ONLF also keeps calling all parties to the  current wars to opt for peaceful settlement of the conflicts and spare the lives of millions  that are harmed by the continuation of this destructive war. 

The EC evaluated the ONLF’s participation in the coming election and consulted extensively  with its members and supporters. After this careful deliberation, The EC decided that ONLF  withdraw from the 2021 election. ONLF EC deeply regrets this decision. However, despite  the repeated appeals to NEBE to rectify the widespread voter registration process fraud by  

the PP party with concrete suggestions by the opposition parties, it has failed to put in place  the conditions necessary for free and fair election in the Somali state. The people’s hope  created by postponing the election for three months, was shattered by NEBE’s decision to  maintain the fraudulent process. 

The EC did not easily take this decision. Since ONLF’s core reason to stop the armed struggle was to pursue the rights of the Somali people through peaceful democratic means.  However, the circumstances that the ruling party imposed on ONLF and other opposition  parties, from blocking candidate registration, attacking or harassing candidates and  members, and finally obstructing proper voter registration of the people with no recourse  to genuine justice, has finally forced ONLF to the withdrawal today from the elections. 

EC is gravely concerned about the worsening situation on the Somali Afar Border. ONLF  believes that if there is the will and the genuine desire of the Federal government, that issue  could be resolved through the constitution and legal framework. It is very ironic that para military forces controlled by the same party fight each other. The issue cannot be solved  through dubious administrative agreements reached by respective administrations. The  constitution stipulates that where dispute occurs between two nations on a border area, a  referendum will be held. Why is this not applied to the disputed territory? ONLF calls upon  the federal government to stop shunning its responsibility and address this issue in a fair  and transparent manner. ONLF further calls other nations in Ethiopia to stop meddling in  the affair between Somalis and Afar. Such meddling could instigate ethnic tensions that may  have dire consequences among communities living in peace. In addition, ONLF calls upon  the international community to supply meaningful aid to the displaced people from the  Somali Afar Conflict, specially, the Somalis who are habitually marginalized. 

ONLF reiterates its call for a Somali consultative national conference to unite the Somali  people to develop a common stance in order to strengthen their unity and effort to  maintain the stability and a peace achieved so far. Such a unity will facilitate working together to promote the effort to develop a genuine democratic process that establishes a  representative governance which will be the basis of a stable peaceful society that are at  peace with itself and its neighbours. 

Finally, ONLF once again reiterates its strategic choice to pursue the rights of the Somali  people through peaceful proactive struggle and is willing to engage in any genuine national  dialogue.” AS

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