The Voice of Expatriates: UWSLF and EPRDF can get us home! By Al Haji

Published: 19th Aprill 2010.

Have you ever thought coming home after 20 years of exile? Did you think that peace in Ogaden will yield prosperity to its respected and most troubled citizens that have been devastated by the lack of tranquillity and serendipity? If you think so, it has never been nearer today and let us back up and prepare for departure to our longed land. But before that let me critically and constructively take you through various and contradicting views of the current hope that has engulfed majority of us.

Hope is the only asset for the poor and without it there is no meaningful life. What we are hopping now depends on what the future holds and it is only Allah who knows the best. It is therefore always true to test any situation in one leg as we say, and hold the other one outside of the game lest it is spoilt. If that happens you simply take your tired leg out and limp with it and vice versa you bring the strong, rested right leg and outperform.  To cut the long story short, there is spark of hope in our region and thanks to UWSLF leadership who decided to finally listen and seek an alternative means of reaching agreement with Ethiopian government. For them it is very risky business to decide and go to Ethiopia while in fact many grudges have been here and there between the two. Nevertheless, the heroic move and commitment shown so far to reach lasting solution for the region and its tarnished community has been tremendous and encouraging!.

Colleagues at work and friends came to me when this ceasefire agreement was signed and published on the news outlets. Friend from Somali-land, asked me, “Is this agreement true or fabricated?” I said it is true!. He leant forward with his mouth wide open in surprise, and said, why, who will fight Ethiopia? I calmly and confidently reminded him an old adage “Every dog has its own days”. He then paused for a while and said this is not agreement and offered his advice insisting we should always keep fighting while everyone else sleeps in peace! I can not understand why fellow Somali brother wants me to die while he wants to eagerly make business and travel here and there without any fear. Hypocrisy! I said to him proudly that we are planning to hold Somali Reconciliation Conference in Jijga and reminded him the opportunity available for us to exploit! He then with deep breath been taken a back and may be warned!

Thinking about that, I was then another time approached by another Somali from Southern Somalia. He then asked me the same question and accused Somalis from Ogaden breaking the promise of their struggle and now apprehended themselves to Ethiopia. He continued to talk to me explaining how many thousands lives lost in 1977 war between Somalia and Ethiopia regarding Ogaden Region and the impartial involvement of All Somalis. I acknowledged his points and then explained what is good for the entire Africa and how peaceful agreement with all involved will benefit all. I gave him some examples of my wisdom and he left me convinced that this option was the best for at least Somalis in Ogaden.! The final message I offered him was “ No need to fight”!

This is one of many examples that we all witnessed since this ceasefire agreement appeared in our radar.  The word “Peace” meant more than millions for us and it has become life challenging. It is something overdue and long awaited. The UWSLF and Ethiopian government did reach similar agreements before after which they both abandoned. The Chair of UWSLF has recently mentioned in an interview that this is the 9th attempt to reach settlement with the government and he pointed out how serious his party has been and is for reaching a bilateral agreement to end insurgency in the region.

For Ethiopia, Simon Berekat, the current Information Minister and key figure of Ethiopia government welcomed the negotiation and agreement reached between the two. Expatriates from the region around the globe are ready to travel in multitude if this agreement yields peace, BUT will it happen and will Ethiopia stick to its word this time. There are two dimensions here that are noteworthy. First, in Ethiopia there is an election and it has always been the case that Ethiopia engages negotiations with armed groups for two main reasons; to concentrate the election and its process including post election time and selecting the next ministers. Secondly to buy in to the Western tone of multi party election!. We know what happened last elections and the attempts made by EPRDF which ended without result. We remain tentatively watching and witnessing another history. If this a PR exercise from EPRDF, then unfortunately all citizens from Ogaden around the globe will support the insurgency convinced that Ethiopia will never be ready to come to the table.
We are not asking peace to return but rather to arrive for the first time. We have never enjoyed it and we wish it to  be here with us all very soon. It is therefore a matter for all of us not between UWSLF and Ethiopia. If it comes it will be the end of one chapter and the beginnings of many opportunities. If it fails, it is the return to our historical mishaps and insurgency which only fuels hostility and backwardness of our life.  In the age of 50 odd years of my live, I have never seen or experienced tranquillity in Ogaden region and it was same for my forefathers. Will we continue this, or can  there  be any other chance to review our policy and attitude towards peace.?

Money, Knowledge and investment from abroad can only be utilised when we see and captivated by peace.  Peace, Peace! But who holds its keys! EPRDF! So far, we are convinced that enough lessons has been learnt by all and past history and experience may hasten this process to its fruitful fate Insha Allah.

Now, I am not hopping the same failure and God forbid it.  All I/ We want to see is peaceful settlement in the region and it is the hands of Ethiopia government and its leaders. If development is the target, peace is the key to it. And If peace is long awaited, it is now in your hands. As expatriate, we can only bring knowledge, investment and experience if peace prevails in the region.

We belong to Allah, and to him we return!

Al Haji
The writer of this article is an independent and political commentator of the region. All comments regarding this article should be addressed to:  ogadenya@hotmail.com

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