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An ONLF sympathizer or a Human rights activist?

By Osman Ali
Tigrai Onlne - March 10, 2014

Now and then, we see a western journalist, politician, pundit, activist, etc. who claims to have a thorough knowledge of the lives of Ethiopia. Similarly, it is common to see them displaying extreme forms of paternalism by trying to preach Ethiopia, as if the whole country is a kindergarten rather than a sovereign country with thousands of years proud history.

In deed, no one affords to respond to such routine cases of self-aggrandizement. Experience had shown that people with neo-colonial mentality, egoistic personality are not responsive to rational debate. Those who run NGOs that are financed by forces of color revolution and ideological agenda are worse on this regard.

One of the best examples in that regard is Graham Peebles, the director of the Create Trust. Mr. Peebles have little regard for facts and a chauvinist mentality of historic proportions. He frequently writes long monologues on topics related to Ethiopia pretending to have an extensive knowledge and the appropriate recommendations to that end.

Mr. Peebles is aware of his lack of credibility and that a small number of people trouble to read his long monologues. Therefore, he hoped to make himself relevant and important by publishing a piece on Counter Punch website last month.

The recent lengthy monologue with the heading "The Violence in the Ogaden Rages On: Ethiopian Persecution, Threats and Kidnapping" was an indication that he became ridiculously insufferable and his detachment from reality reached a record level both in terms of facts and assessments.

Mr. Peebles' displayed ignorance right from the beginning; when he claims:

Hidden and isolated from the world the armed conflict raging in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia goes unnoticed. The killing and raping of innocent civilians at the hands of the military and their paramilitary partners in crime the Liyu police, the false arrests, torture and imprisonment remain largely hidden and unreported. The international media, human rights groups and most aid organisations (including the International Red Cross) have been banned from the region by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since 2007.

There are atleast three problems with this paragraph.

First, there is no place called Ogaden. Ogaden is a name of a Somali clan. The terrorist group ONLF believes the whole Ethiopian-Somali belong to that clan even if that is objected by many including anthropologists. Western writers use the term in reference to the whole or to some of the districts of the region, inhabited by Ogaden clan, depending on their knowledge and motive.

Whichever the case, there are hundreds of Kebele units and thousands villages in Ethio-Somali region. Mr. Peebles have to no idea to which part of the region he is referring to. Let's assume he is referring to to the relatively instable two zone on the border to Somalia.

Secondly, Mr. Peebles accused "the military and their paramilitary partners" for human rights violation. It is hypocritical that the he chose to accuse without any verifiable claim the popular Ethiopian forces, who help the people nearby their camp (both in Ethiopia or when they are peace-keeping in Africa), by sharing their food, assisting in harvest gathering and the like. While there is plenty evidence its own forces have questionable records.

It is also sad that Mr. Peebles would misrepresents the citizen police (who are customarily called militia) who assist the regular police, by calling them paramilitary forces. These rural “militias” are voluntary recruits and subject to regular public evaluation/consultations meetings of the local population.

Third, it is utter nonsense that Mr. Peebles' claimed that: " human rights groups and most aid organisations (including the International Red Cross) have been banned from the region by the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) since 2007".

For example, the United States Department Human Rights and Practices report of 2012 confirmed that:

“During the year the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited regional prisons throughout the country....Regional authorities allowed government and NGO representatives to meet regularly with prisoners without third parties present. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) monitored federal and regional detention centers and interviewed prison officials and prisoners in response to allegations of widespread human rights abuses. The domestic NGO Justice For All-Prison Fellowship Ethiopia (JFA-PFE) was granted access to various prison and detention facilities.”

These factual contradictions do not bother Mr. Peebles. He makes  more weird claims that unequivocally show his detachment with rationality and reality.

Mr. Peebles claimed that it was the government's fault that talks with ONLF didn't show progress in recent months. Mr. Peebles said:

"Talks ‘stalled’ in September 2012 when the Ethiopian team (contrary to the unconditional basis agreed for the talks by both sides that, “no preconditions shall be made to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations”) demanded that the ONLF representatives acknowledged the Ethiopian constitution, a broadly liberal document written by the EPRDF in 1992 and largely ignored by them ever since. In its articles the Somali (or Ogaden) region is classified as a State of Ethiopia, a contentious statement implying sovereignty over the area, which the ONLF where not prepared to endorse. In a statement they made clear their position, stating that the constitution, “must reflect the will of the people and that the Somali people never exercised a referendum on the constitution.” They went on to say that, “the solution to the conflict in the Ogaden can only be achieved by accepting the principles of the [people’s] right to exercise their self-determination without any preconditions or restrictions.”

It must be difficult if not impossible to find a self-appointed savior of a people making such huge misrepresentation of facts.

First, the Government of Ethiopia has always been on the basis for negotiations with any political group. That is the acceptance of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic of Ethiopia. The Constitution is, by Mr. Peebles, free admission, "a broadly liberal document". Therefore, ONLF and its sympathizer Mr. Peebles, should have no problem accepting it if they are truly forces of democracy.

Secondly, Mr. Peebles should have no confusion that Ethio-Somali region is a sovereign territory of Ethiopia. This is a fact ascertained by all countries in the world, the United Nations, as well as international law.

In fact, separatist parties in Canada, Spain and elsewhere accept the Constitution and sovereignty of the countries, while they democratically effort to secede their region. Why should it be different in Ethiopia?

Thirdly, Mr Peebles claimed that if ONLF accepts the Constitution, it will be contrary ONLF's objective for secession. That is a baseless and ignorant statement that can only be made by someone who never read the Constitution of Ethiopia.

Article 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Democratic of Ethiopia provides:

1. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has an unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.

2. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to speak, to write and to develop its own language; to express, to develop and to promote its culture; and to preserve its history.

3. Every Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia has the right to a full measure of self-government which includes the right to establish institutions of government in the territory that it inhabits and to equitable representation in state and Federal governments.

4. The right to self-determination, including secession, of every Nation, Nationality and People shall come into effect:
(a) When a demand for secession has been approved by a two-thirds majority of the members of the legislative Council of the Nation, Nationality or People concerned;
(b) When the Federal Government has organized a referendum which must take place within three years from the time it received the concerned council's decision for secession;
(c) When the demand for secession is supported by a majority vote in the referendum;
(d) When the Federal Government will have transferred its powers to the Council of the Nation, Nationality or People who has voted to secede; and
(e) When die division of assets is effected in a manner prescribed by law.

5. A "Nation, Nationality or People" for the purpose of this Constitution, is a group of people who have or share a large measure of a common culture or similar customs, mutual intelligibility of language, belief in a common or related identities, a common psychological make-up, and who inhabit an identifiable predominantly contiguous territory.

Therefore, if ONLF and its sympathizer Mr. Peebles are confident that the people of Ethio-Somali region wish to secede, the best way is to accept the constitution and employ its fair and democratic procedures.   

However, Mr. Pleebles has more implausible claims to make. In his article, Mr. Peebles claimed that:

Membership of the EPRDF brings with it work permits, a range of essential aid from food to fertiliser, a home, university places, government jobs, business opportunities such as opening a shop, a hairdressing salon or driving a taxi – only possible if you are an EPRDF card carrying devotee, one prepared to hang a photograph of their cherished leader, former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in your Lada.

Oh, really? Is that so? Ok!

But, where does Dr. Merera Gudina work? He works at the government owned Addis Ababa University. In fact, he often assumes the Department head position that rotates every two years. The same is true with Dr. Beyene Petros, Dr. Dagnachew Asefa.


Even Dr. Berhanu Nega, who is now head of the terrorist group Ginbot 7, had a secured job at AAU until he himself left it to work in an NGO. In fact, some people made far-fetched allegations that EPRDF wants these opposition politicians to recruit University staff and students using that position. Because their students invariably testimony that these opposition politicians spend more time criticizing the government and the ruling party than teaching their lesson plan. 

Mr. Peebles becomes utterly ridiculous when claimed that:

Economic growth is said to be racing along at 8% per annum; however, the beneficiaries of any development dividend are those within the cosy government clique, and given that deceit and duplicity are government policy, there is considerable doubt as to the reliability of the growth claims. “It is not clear how factual Ethiopia’s economic data are. Life is intolerably expensive for Ethiopians in Addis Ababa, the capital, and its outlying towns. Some think Ethiopia’s inflation figures are fiddled” [The Economist].

However, despite Mr. Peebles' wish that Ethiopia remains in poverty, there are several reputed personalities and organization who confirm Ethiopia's socio-economic stride.

For example, a few months ago, in the 26th Session of the African, Caribbean and Pacific-European Union Joint Parliamentary Assembly (ACP-EU/JPA), Dr. Joyce Laboso, Co-President of the ACP-EU/JPA, gave her testimony of Ethiopi’s remarkable transformation in the following words:

"The last time that Ethiopia hosted this Assembly was in February 2004, when the 7th Session of the JPA met in this very room. Nine years ago is not a very long time. And yet those of you who were here then could not have failed to see the remarkable transformation that has taken place in this city in this short span of time.

This is hardly surprising, given that Ethiopia’s economy has been growing at a very fast rate of about 8% a year in recent years. It is gratifying to note how some of these developments are spurring growth in other sectors of the economy, in a healthy mix of private and public investments from local and international investors.

What is remarkable still, about this growth is that it not being driven by mineral resources. These positive developments have been motivated by institutional, political and social reforms, and are beacons of hope and sources of inspiration."

Similarly, the African Economic Outlook report 2013 prepared by UNECA, AfDB, OECD and UNDP, re-confirmed that:

"the share of pro-poor spending in total expenditure has been rising and reached 70% in 2011/12 up from 67% the previous year. Aggregate expenditure is expected to increase in 2013 and 2014 with capital spending growing faster than recurrent expenditure to support implementing the government's economic transformation plan and achieving the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as well as reaching targets for making Ethiopia a middle income economy by 2025".

Mr. Peebles discredits himself when he discloses his sources.

He wrote that:

"The many claims of rape, false arrest, torture and execution of civilians by military personnel and Liyu police officers were confirmed by the statement of a former Liyu commander I spoke to in Dadaab. He said, "the Ethiopian government wants to colonise the people and get rid of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF); the main target is the oil.”

Please read the above quote again! There can nevere be a better evidence that Mr. Peebles is ONLF sympathizer.

First, Mr. Peebles quoted someone whom he claims was "a Liyu commander". Therefore, he should be, as per Mr. Peebles narrative, a criminal. However, Mr. Peebles didn't report the guy to authorities so that he can be charged of crimes against humanity. To the contrary, he takes his word as words from the holy gospel, thereby as an unquestionable evidence to blame Ethiopia.

 Second, by endorsing the claim of colonization, Mr. Peebles demonstrated that his disdain to the charter of the Organization of African Union signed in 1963, which establishes all colonial-era boundaries as boundaries of African countries. The objective of that was avoiding all sources of border conflicts from  the sister countries of Africa.

Unfortunately, Mr. Peebles have little care for the peace and security of Africa. The bottom line is: Is Mr. Peebles an ONLF sympathizer or a Human rights activist? The answer is very clear.

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