Crowd at ONLF conference in Ethiopia

History of the conflict in Ethiopia

For more than two decades, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has been fighting for self-determination for Somalis in the Somali Regional State (SRS) of Ethiopia (also known as the Ogaden region.) 

The ONLF formed as a secular, nationalist group in 1984. They won the elections for the first SRS regional assembly in 1992 following the overthrow of the Ethiopian military regime in 1991 and ushering in of an ethnic federal system in Ethiopia. The group turned to armed insurgency in 1994, following disagreement with the federal government over self-determination rights of the Somalis and after several of their leaders were arrested and/or killed.
The conflict has left the Somali region one of Ethiopia’s poorest states – on average, nearly two million people are dependent on food aid each year.  

Our work in Ethiopia

Negotiating peace

Peace talks between the ONLF and the Government of Ethiopia began in 2012, led by a team from the Kenyan government. Conciliation Resources was invited to support these talks, providing technical advice to the Kenyan team and the conflict parties throughout the six years of negotiations. This included training in preparing for negotiations, advising on the wider peace process and helping to draft the final peace deal.  

The deal was signed in October 2018 in Asmara, Eritrea. It brought an end to hostilities and paved the way for the ONLF to return to the region and pursue its political objectives through peaceful means.

Transitioning to peace

Since the signing of the peace deal, we’re now supporting the conflict parties in the transition to peace.  We arranged learning trips to Northern Ireland and the Basque Country – helping ONLF leaders prepare for their move from armed opposition to political organisation. 

We are supporting the regional government to develop a peace and reconciliation framework that takes in to account the complex nature of conflict in the region and provides for better coordination between the regional government, ONLF, elders and local communities. It will also improve links with the federal Ministry of Peace. 

This work includes supporting immediate peace and dialogue interventions to the Oromo-Somali border conflict and local intra-Somali conflicts related to boundaries, grazing rights and access and control to local government resources. 

In addition, we’re also working with young people and diaspora communities, to ensure that their views and perspectives on peace are fed into the ongoing peace process.