The Ogaden Peace Talks: Public Relations Stunt or Genuine Initiative?
By Jawar Mohammed*
It is reported that the Ethiopian government has held another round of peace talks with the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in Nairobi. First announced by the Ethiopian government, the news is confirmed by the rebel group, which has listed the key procedural points on which preliminary agreement has been reached. This was followed by another announcement that the Swedish journalists sentenced to 11 years after they were caught in Ogaden have been pardoned. This is an interesting development, but might not necessarily be a game changer for the conflict.
The negotiation, which is being mediated by Kenya, has been going on for about a year according to sources taking part in the process. The latest round of negotiation was attended by a high level delegation from both sides: the government was represented by the defense minister, while the Ogadenis sent the commander of the army, head of its diplomatic section and prominent intellectuals representing civic society. Therefore, it seems each side wanted to make this appear a serious undertaking, and they have already achieved that as the news has gone viral among the international media. However, the timing of the current announcement and history of the prior relation between the two parties makes us doubtful.