On June 4th -5th, 2011, The Institute for Horn of Africa Studies and Affairs (IHASA) held two-day workshop aimed at finding lasting peace with justice in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. The purpose of the workshop was to promote meaningful discussion among one of the major drivers and actors of the Ogaden conflict—the diaspora community.

The workshop: Remarks from presenters

The Co-Director of Human Rights Center at University of Minnesota, Kristie Palmer began the workshop with warm welcoming. Kristie’s opening remarks concerned with the severe human rights violations in the region and how it is the responsibility of the government of Ethiopia to ensure rights of its people. Kristie emphasized on the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that states” stating, that “Freedom, justice and peace in the world” are founded on the basis of “the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.” Kristie went on to emphasize that every man, woman and child has the right to peace and the absence of violence. She went on to explain how violations of human rights and armed conflict are often linked; systematic abuse of the human rights of particular communities or groups can result in conflict, and violent conflict in turn results in further violations of human rights. In other words, human rights are linked to issues of conflict, peace and security. Kristie highlighted the conflict in the context of human rights included the way in which the Danish-Germany border was drawn. Another example was the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which foresees that the people Northern Ireland can decide their future in a referendum, brought a considerable reduction of violence.

Following Kristie’s remarks, the president of IHASA, Hamse Warfa introduced IHASA’s mission and vision. Hamse articulated that IHASA is a national, nonprofit, research-based organization who mission is to disseminate information on the socio-economic and political situation of the Horn of Africa region, particularly the Ogaden region. According to Hamse, IHASA also aims to promote peace, justice, equality, development and support policies and actions that contribute to the advancement of good governance, rule of law and the elimination of conflicts in the Horn of Africa. IHASA has developed three strategic programs which are as follows:

1. Research
2. Conflict Resolution
3. Education and Advocacy.

Hamse pointed out the following vision for IHASA

• IHASA’s vision is to work towards the attainment of a peaceful co-existence and prosperous future for the entire population of the Horn of Africa region.
• IHASA strongly believes that the people of the Horn of Africa, given the opportunities necessary, are productive and the region as being very dynamic and resourceful. IHASA believes that this can be attained through peace, justice, and mutual development as a way of life. On his final note, Hamse Warfa thanked the participants and acknowledged how they are supportive hoping to see more generosity of them.
Hamse highlighted the need for Somali ogaden scholars to conduct their own research. He said ‘no one knows more about the conditions of our people and region than our scholars. So it only makes sense that we be at forefront of researching, documenting and disseminating accurate information about our socio-economic justice issues.” In that spirit, Hamse shared the good knows that the first ever book by institution owned by the community will come out in 6 weeks.

Following these brief comments from Hamse, two experts in the Horn of Africa and the nature of Ogaden conflict presented their analysis. Here, I will summarize their major findings.
Faisal Roble, a senior researcher and a member of IHASA’s professional Advisory Board addressed the background and historical context of the conflict in Ogaden. Roble spoke of the roots of the conflict, debating successfully on the tedious relationship between Muslim Somalis in the Ogaden and Christian Abyssinians overtime, making this conflict one of the most deadly conflicts in Africa, particularly in Ethiopia. Roble presented argument of the geopolitical conflict which he based on three interrelated dimensions namely as:

1. Ethiopians perspective of the conflict in Somali-Ogaden, the conflict that is the product of the Anglo-Ethiopian treaty.
2. Introducing and identifying the conflict’s stake holders, by looking at both sides to the conflict afterwards briefly advancing some preliminary alternatives of addressing this conflict.
3. the way to move forward

In his concern with human rights violations, Roble said that” In an Orwellian way, everything else pales when compared to what the current government has been doing since the last few years. Displacement, rape and torturous killings, even hanging of innocent civilians had been common since the 1900s when Abyssinians highlanders raided Somalis. What is chillingly unique to the methods of intimidation this time under the EPRDF rule is the degree of cruelty; a case in point is the method of slitting one’s neck with iron wire rod and rope, with the sole objective to severe one’s neck for an irreversible liquidation of one’s life, and most often the victims are civilians including women. “

On the other hand, Mr. Charless (Chic) Dambach, President & CEO of Alliance for Peacebuilding, the largest peacebuilding coalition in the world and an expert on conflict resolution and comprehensively addressed at the concept of conflict resolution by pointing to drivers or causes of the conflict and the path to the resolution without splitting into more violence. Chic Argued that changing nation states and social structures to enhance peace –building principles will take some time as it needs a patience and persistence. His beliefs on peace –building and peace way of resolving conflicts made him to reject any country embracing a war mentality and active use of force as technique for social, political and economic change. Moreover, Chic insisted that one of the fundamental principles of mutual agreement on solving the conflict is the trust between the conflicting parties to proceed next phase of the conflict resolution. He concluded that only peaceful means can enrich efforts to tackle more violent and civil wars in the region. He appreciated and promised to give supportive role to the Somali Ogaden cause.

The second day of the workshop focused facilitated discussion with the youth on leadership, education and activism. Horsed Noor, IHASA’s Vice-president made a powerful presentation on the need for youth leadership. He cited numerous examples of youth-led effort that braughtdesired results for their societies. Faisal Roble also encouraged the youth to pursue higher education arguing that it’s the most lethal weapon you can use to advance your cause for justice and equality.

At the end of the workshop, several members of the audience made comments following the presentations; some of the remarks have focused on the question of how peace with justice be achieved in the Ogaden

Written by Abdullahi Warfa


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