By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan
Addis Abeba – The main opposition party in the Somali region, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), released a statement on 16 February denouncing the Somali regional government for what it called “disinformation” and accused it of downplaying the severity of the drought facing the region.
The ONLF’s latest statement is in response to statement released on 13 February by Somali regional government accusing unnamed “anti-peace forces” of attempting to overthrow the regional government by force and colliding with terrorist organizations to destabilize the region.
The regional government said that despite its efforts to respond to the current drought, which, according to the UNOCHA has affected at least ten zones in the region, “anti peace forces” were using the drought as pretext to destabilize the region. “Anti-peace forces have been plotting to overthrow the regional government. They tried to disrupt the peace by galvanizing the people, destabilizing the region and seizing power by force,” the statement said, adding “the government and the people of the Somali region express that attempts to seize power through force will never succeed, our efforts to reverse the drought would not be thwarted by anti-change elements.”
“The main purpose of these forces is to destabilize the region, and seize power by force to pit people against people. While we strive to save our people from the drought, these forces, which do not care about the people, have failed in their efforts to disrupt the peace and the relief efforts of the people affected by the drought,” the statement further said.
Although the regional government did not mention by name who it was referring to in its statement, it came two days after a joint statement released on 10 February by the ONLF and Congress for Somali Cause (CSC), a newly formed opposition group, criticized the regional government’s response to the drought. “The current situation of the region, which leaves millions to deal with crippling famine, hunger, and malnutrition, proves the inability of the government to act responsibly, acknowledge the extent of the problem and invest in the right areas and programs,” the joint statement reads.
In its latest response to Somali region government, the ONLF said: “In an attempt to divert attention from the recent split in the local prosperity party (PP), the catastrophic drought and the heavy handed crackdown on civilians, activists and political figures in the Somali state (Ogaden), the administration of President Mustafa Omar “Agjar” has embarked on a campaign of disinformation aimed at fabricating an imminent eternal and internal threat to his rile while simultaneously downplaying the severity of the current drought.”
It further explained, “Tensions are indeed rising in the Somali state precisely because Mr. Omar’s administration has demonstrated an immense lack of judgment in its actions,” while adding, “The ONLF condemns the heavy handed crackdown on Somalis in the Somali state (Ogaden) by security forces resulting in the death of civilians and the intentional neglect of the humanitarian needs of Somalis resulting in further suffering and loss of life during the catastrophic drought.
Furthermore, the main opposition party in the region affirmed its commitment to basic human rights such as freedom of expression and association before adding, “No amount of disinformation regarding alleged coup attempts and imaginary external threats changes the fact that the current administration of Mr. Omar has utterly failed in the discharge of its duties.”
The party went on to condemn the assault on Khadar Moalim, the former president of the Somali region and the attack on protests that resulted in the death of two students in Aw Barre town in the region. Warning of further escalation, the ONLF said, “What is unfolding in the Somali state has a serious potential of escalating specifically due to the blatant disregard for human life and livelihood by President Mustafa.”
The Opposition party, while blaming president Mustafa Omar for the recent events, has called on the regional government to release all political prisoners, to cease targeting political parties, civil society organizations and independent politicians and to open the political space.
“No amount of suppression or intimidation will deter the strong resolve of the Somali people to determine their own future and hold the government accountable on the federal and regional levels.” AS