(Gundiid.com) It is nearly a month ago since the two Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson had been sentenced to 11 years jail term each by the so called Ethiopian court. The conviction came after TPLF prosecutors and judges accused the Swedes of supporting terrorists and entering the country –Ethiopia illegally.

In fact the two Swedes have themselves admitted to entering Ethiopia illegally – a choice they made after much pressure from all sides particularly the Swedish government and the media all of which had their own interests in the outcome. The government had conflicting interests in that the foreign minister was a member of the board of Lundin Oil Company which was previously linked to genocide in the Ogaden and which the two journalists said were going to investigate further during their trip to the Ogaden. Thus the government did not want the negative media accompanied by these revealings. Secondly they had an obligation to protect Swedish citizens overseas. These two factors could have led them to put pressure on the journalists to admit their offense of entering the country illegally while probably having secret talks with the regime in Addis Ababa about post-admission results.

The media on the other hand has an interest in delivering up-to-date news to the public and the Swedish media particularly was very effective in this regard. Several news outlets had presence in Ethiopia since the incident occurred. However, at many points the media were relying on experts who, in our eyes, were either lacking a basic understanding of both the Ogaden conflict and how the regime in Ethiopia works, or were simply TPLF accomplices. The experts have on many occasions depicted an incorrect picture on the alternatives the Swedes might have in dealing with the situation. For instance they talked much about what choices the two journalists could make but not much about what the government of Sweden and the international community could do.

Moreover, almost all Swedish parties, including the experts, and everyone else for that matter, implicitly or explicitly, seemed to agree that the two journalists entered Ethiopia illegally. This was the key factor (peer pressure) that overwhelming led the journalists to admit for their illegal entry. There is a Somali proverb saying dad kaa badan iyo biyo kaa badanba wey ku hafiyaan which literally means more people and more water can overwhelm you.

However, the journalists did not enter the country illegally and therefore shouldn’t have admitted to entering Ethiopia illegally. Many readers would take this as mere a claim but there is enough evidence to support this statement.

The first evidence comes from the TPLF regime itself. They have publicly and in court showed a video of the journalists capture. They were captured in the Ogaden and particularly near the border with Somalia. Although most parts of the Ogaden is currently controlled by the militias allied with the TPLF, the regions has never been officially Ethiopian. It is true that Great Britain ceded Ogaden to Ethiopia in 1954, and since been clouded by conflict between people of the region and consecutive regimes of Expansionist Ethiopia. It also well known that Ethiopia and Somalia have fought over it more than twice.
The current insurgency led by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is a product of the prolonged denial of various highlander regimes –the latest being the TPLF which itself used to struggle alongside the people of Ogaden to overthrow the Derg regime. The people of Ogaden believe in peaceful co-existence but were forced to fight. In fact after the Derg was overthrown Somalis in the Ogaden were ready to solve their problems peacefully and vote for whether they wanted to be part of Greater Ethiopia or not. As part of the no-bullet-but-ballot-strategy Somalis in the Ogaden have for the first time in their recent history got a chance to vote in a multi-party election that was won overwhelmingly by the ONLF. However, TPLF in a betrayal move decided to hunt ONLF one by one after which time the later started a defensive insurgency.

Since then, there has never been an attempt to make a sustainable and long term agreement with the Somali people that are have endured despite their firm opposition under tough TPLF rule. Therefore, the question of whether Ogaden is officially Ethiopian or not is an unfinished business as there has never been a referendum in the region.
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The second and most important evidence for this is the internationally recognized borders of Ethiopia. As shown on this official google map the border between Ogaden and Somalia is left dashed, and not a normal line as other borders of Ethiopia because this is a disputed land –and not an Ethiopian land. Therefore, while the Swedish journalists were captured by Somali militia allied with the TPLF that currently rules Ethiopia, they were not within Ethiopian borders that are internationally binding.

With these facts in mind the journalists shouldn’t have in the first place admitted to entering Ethiopian borders illegally. And more importantly, they should challenge the TPLF led Ethiopian regime in international tribune. It will take time, resources, and above all courage to pursue this legitimate path but an outcome gained through this way is far rewarding for both the journalists, their families, the suffering of the Somali people in the Ogaden and the stability of the Horn of Africa.



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