NO MORE KILLINGS OF CIVILIANS!

“?We must learn to live together as brothers; or we will
perish together as fools”?
Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

Fellow Ethiopians:

Has anyone heard of Degehabur before? Or knows where it is located? It is a small town in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, populated mainly by Ethiopian Somalis. It is in this town that a massacre of civilians by non-government forces occurred on April 24th 2007.

The Ogaden National liberation front (ONLF), a group that is sponsored by the regime of Issayas Afeworki in Asmara, has immediately taken responsibility defending its actions as a protection to the way of life of residents of Ogaden.

“? We will not allow the mineral resources of our people to be exploited by this regime or any firm that it enters into an illegal contract.”?

Ato Seyoum Mesfin the foreign minister of Ethiopia put the blame squarely on international and local terrorists from Somalia. The Minister promised that they will get to the bottom of it. Some EPRDF sympathizing groups that were silent when hundreds were brutally massacred in Addis Ababa, Dessie, Wellega, Mogadishu .., have suddenly come out as advocates and defenders of “humanity”?. (What an irony?)

One of such group is the Union of Tigreans in North America (UTNA). The UTNA has released a statement condemning the action of the ONLF. In their statement we read:

“? We abhor the indiscriminate and dastardly acts of murder perpetrated by the thugs of the self-appointed Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) which is in the pay-roll of the terrorist regime of Eritrea”?.

Whatever the rhetoric we are hearing from the ONLF and the EPRDF, one thing is very clear. Civilians were killed in Degahabur and those individuals who are responsible for it must be held accountable. The blood that was shed by the “ONLF”? is no different than the blood shed by the EPRDF security forces on the street of Addis Ababa and Mogadishu. Crimes are crimes.

Because the ONLF is a member of the AFD (Alliance for Freedom and Democracy), the UTNA is trying to illogically link other members of the AFD to this unfortunate incident in the Ogaden. The group said:

“?It is instructional to observe that the so-called and self-anointed “Diaspora CUD”? has chosen the conspiracy of silence in the wake of such atrocity of wider Horizon and dimension. Needless to say, this is the all too obvious condoning of the cowardly and terrorist act and another indelible confirmation of CUD’ s undisguised connivance with the forces inimical to the just cause and desire of the Ethiopian people. What is emblematic at this juncture is the indisputable stance of the so-called AFD, CUD Diaspora, OLF, ONLF and EPPF, which have formed the unholy alliance against the Ethiopian people’s progress towards peace, development and democracy. “

I refer this group to the statutes of the AFD which says that one of the goals of the AFD is to promote harmony between the Parties and their constituents by overcoming the history of mistrust through dialogue, mutual understanding and respect.

As part of the AFD, Kinijit (the CUD) brought armed groups to the table and to the understanding that the culture of peaceful resolution be upheld. The major political differences between the OLF/ONLF and Kinijit did not block them from at least talking to one another in good faith. They called for an all-inclusive national conference among which the EPRDF can be part of. That is why the AFD, though it does have some flaws of its own, cannot be accused of promoting violence.

It is the EPRDF officials which have still refused to sit down and try to resolve problems with a dialogue. They ignored all calls of peace and reconciliation. They have basically pushed their opponents to the edge.

If the ONLF resorts to such barbaric actions that were witnessed in Degahabur, the EPRDF did indeed facilitate it by denying the atmosphere of peace. Therefore not Kinijit but the EPRDF bears an indirect responsibility for the killings of civilians in Ogaden. Had they not closed the door for peace and dialogue such unfortunate incident would not have happened.

Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin said that the EPRDF will go to the bottom of it. What could “going to the bottom of it”? mean? Could it mean more military actions by Security forces in Ogaden? Could it be more killings this time by the bullets triggered from Agazi soldiers? Could it be more concentration camps?

The mode of operation of the EPRDF is not usually based on rationales but vengeance. Instead of resolving crisis peacefully, they tend to rely heavily on their military strength and exert fear on the people. If the EPRDF intensifies its crack down heavily on the population in Ogaden, I would not be surprised. Because of what has happened in Degahabur, the EPRDF, I am afraid, may unleash rampages on civilians in the Ogaden. There are reports that, already, youngsters are being abducted by security forces in Jijiga. If true such action is very counterproductive and will ultimately result in more chaos and victims.

The only way forward that can bring lasting peace and security in that region is peaceful dialogue. I hereby call for the EPRDF security forces to refrain from taking any actions that will aggravate the existing conditions. They must know that bloodshed will results in more bloodshed. They must know that they cannot rule by force. Their Agazi soldiers and their weapons cannot give them security and stability forever.

Similarly I call on the ONLF to renounce violence and adopt the strategy of Kinijit. The principle and strategy of Kinijit is to eliminate once and for all the culture of violence in Ethiopia. As was clearly indicated in recent statements of the Kinijit International Leadership (KIL) and Kinijit North America violence and killings of civilians have no place in the future of Ethiopia. With their unequivocal rejection of violence and armed struggles Kinijit supporters are basically sending clear messages to the EPRDF and ONLF alike that human life is precious and no blood of civilians must be shed in Ethiopia.

Armed struggle and the culture to solve disputes by violence will never help anyone. A good example is Somalia and Iraq. Does the ONLF want Kebri Dehar to be like Kissimayo or Bakuba? Does it want Gode to be like Faluja or Jijiga to be like Mogadishu or Bagdad?

We are all brothers and sisters. We are all Ethiopians. We are all children of God. If we cleanse our heart from vengeance and hate, we can solve all our differences peacefully. If there is good will from all parts, we will be surprised to know how minuscule our problems were.

Let our eyes be open for the light of truth and our heart for love. Let our hand rush to shake hands and pull up those who are weak instead of triggering bullets. As Dr King said, we must learn to live together as brothers/sisters for otherwise the fire of hate will consume all of us.

If we come together as brothers & sisters we will all be winners. If we keep on killing one another we will all be losers. The choice is “win-win”? or “lose-lose”?. There is no “win-lose”? situation.

A man who raises a sword shall die by the sword!

Girma Kassa
muziky68@yahoo.com

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