On Monday, February 18, 2013, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) released its latest Press Statement concerning Africa Oil Corporation (AOC) and called that company to cease its oil exploration activities in Ogaden “until a just settlement of the conflict is achieved and the people of the Ogaden are in a position to be masters of their wealth and interest.”

Soon after the statement was released to the media, several international media houses picked up the story and published it under the headline: “Ethiopian Rebels Warn Canadian Oil Company”.

By and large most of the newspapers which had published the ONLF statement did so in a balanced manner, correctly quoting the ONLF and getting the Ethiopian government version of the story.

But there was an exception: Sudan Tribune. This paper which had in the past fairly reported about Ogaden issues has lately been hijacked by its Addis Abbaba based reporter, a man named Tesfa-Alem Tekle, who writes as TPLF/EPRDF party cadre and government functionary than credible journalist. Mr. Tekle has honed his journalistic training in Mekelle University in Tigray province and is known to be more hawkish at times than the propaganda ministers Bereket Simon and Shimeles Kemal. In his latest attempt to out-do Ethiopian Communications Minister Shimeles Kemal (“Ethiopian Rebels threaten Canadian oil company,” Sudan Tribune, Tuesday, February 19, 2013), Mr. Tekle went an extra mile and invented several ONLF ‘splinter groups,’  ‘factions,’ and absurdly ‘A third separate rival wing’ to Kemal’s one ‘remaining faction’ statement.

Tekle’s word choice in the headline of the report ‘Ethiopian rebels “threaten” Canadian oil company’; his preferred categorization of  ONLF as ‘a terrorist designated rebel group’; and his claim that the Kenyan-led mediation efforts failed “after the splinter group refused to accept a precondition to respect the country’s constitution,” are all standard Ethiopian government propaganda talking points. However what is different is the name and authority under which these lies are regurgitated – the Sudan Tribune. Mr. Tekle – and by extension Sudan Tribune which seems to agree with him by carrying his calumny piece – are entitled to their opinion, but not to their own facts.

Separating facts from fiction

For a start, there are no ONLF factions, splinter groups, and rival wings. These are all Ethiopian propaganda creations which we have debunked time and again, but the regime keeps repeating them in the vain hope that it will be accepted as truth.

The ONLF represent the collective wishes and aspirations of the Ogaden citizenry and consists of the entire strata of Ogaden society. It has an efficient and effective armed forces (ONLA) which operate in every province in Ogaden, led by hard-to-crack competent and able commanders. Combined with this are more than 40 community organizations, social groups, youth formations which are active throughout the world campaigning for the Ogaden cause, all of them united under the ONLF banner. The organisation itself has a political hierarchy which consists of Executive Committee, Central Committee, departments, bureaus, sections and subsections, that deal with foreign policy, information, research, finance, organisational affairs, mobilization, in effect a mini government.

So far the Ethiopian regime has never been able to buy any one of the prominent ONLF leaders, in the army or in the political or social formations, other than parading for the media one or two captured junior commanders and few who were expelled from the organisation for violating organisational rules and regulations. That shows the mantle of the ONLF.  Throughout the history of the confrontation between oppressor and oppressed sellouts and turn-coats have never been in short supply on the side of the oppressed, and the Ogaden struggle is no different. However, given the asymmetrical nature of this conflict and the backing the Ethiopian regime gets from world powers, and how it cannot vanquish the Ogaden struggle – through brute force, persuasion, treachery or bribes – shows our just struggle is set to prevail. Our struggle has already crossed the proverbial Rubicon Valley and there is no turning back.

After failing to defeat ONLF, the Ethiopian government resorted to finding solace in misinformation and creating a false perception in the minds of the international community by claiming false agreements with no-existent ONLF ‘factions’ or stating that the Ogaden is peaceful. What is strange is no one questions the validity of Ethiopian government assertions regarding its nemesis – ONLF. Where are these phantom ONLFs that are reaching agreements with Ethiopia? Why do hear about them only when the proper ONLF issues statements?

People shall ask themselves why Ethiopia refuses to allow international media free and unfettered access to Ogaden to show that Ogaden is peaceful and corroborate it’s claim that the majority of ONLF had laid down its arms and are participating in development – the new catch-word Ethiopia is clutching to in order to stay from drowning.ONLF is at its strongest and is very much active in Ogaden and anyone who is interested in the truth can find out that instead of just taking the Ethiopian government’s empty utterances at face value.

As long as the rights of Ogaden people are ignored and Ethiopian Genocide in Ogaden is pushed under the table, no one can benefit from Ogaden natural resources.

The Ethiopian regime is desperately trying to achieve in propaganda (by co-opting journalists like Tekle) what it could not achieve in its collective punishment, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ogaden.

Finally we advice Sudan Tribune and other media houses not to become the conduit through which the Ethiopian regime spreads its propaganda.

ONLF Information Bureau.


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