Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ethiopian government: Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has no capabilities to threaten oil exploration

October 12, 2009:

The Ethiopian government is assuring oil companies that the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) does not have the military capabilities to threaten oil exploration and production operations in the Ogaden region.

For the last two months ONLF spokespeople have issued statements warning foreign oil companies that they could suffer attacks on their Ogaden operations. The ONLF has accused foreign oil companies of exploiting the people of the Ogaden and “collaborating” with the Ethiopian government.

In 2007 the ONLF launched a huge raid on a Chinese oil company project that left 74 people dead; that attack deeply embarrassed the Ethiopian government.

After that attack the Ethiopian Army began a sustained counter-insurgency operation against the ONLF. The government has argued that the ONLF has suffered heavy losses and can no longer organize a major attack like the 2007 assault. That may or may not be true; the ONLF is still capable of small attacks, though lately the attacks seem to be confined to the Ethiopia-Somalia border area.

The government, of course, has an economic interest in protecting oil operations.

Notes

October 11, 2009: A force consisting of “several hundred” Ethiopian Army soldiers left the Ethiopian town of Ferfer and raided three villages in Somalia near the Ethiopia-Somalia border. The Ethiopian unit arrested several suspected members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and Somali Islamist extremists. The operation appears to be linked to the September 21 attack in the border area.

October 8, 2009: Britain announced that it is prepared to support extensive sanctions against Eritrea. Britain accused Eritrea of supplying weapons, training, and financial assistance to Somali Islamist extremists and militias.

September 29, 2009: Djibouti asked the UN to use “all means at its disposal” to end the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea. In June 2008, 35 people died in a battle along the Eritrea-Djibouti border. Subsequent investigation placed the blame on Eritrea.

September 27, 2009: The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa has once again stepped into the Ethiopia-Eritrea dispute. IGAD tends to take Ethiopia's side. An IGAD spokesman said that “conclusive evidence” proves that Eritrea is allied with radical Islamist organizations operating in Somalia. IGAD supports the African Union peacekeeping operation in Somalia. In the past IGAD has asked for international sanctions against Eritrea.

September 21, 2009: Ethiopia's Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) denied Ethiopian accusations that it is supporting Al Shabaab and other radical Islamist groups in Somalia. The government accusations followed an incident where Somali Islamists attacks a town on the Somalia-Ethiopia border. The government said the ONLF helped Al Shabaab stage the attack. The ONLF describes itself as an organization devoted to “self-determination of the people of the Ogaden.” The desert Ogaden is a predominantly Somali-ethnic region.