Ogaden: Vad handlar det om?

Det är utan tvekan ett glädjebesked att Martin Schibbye och Johan Persson fått komma hem till Sverige efter sin långa tid i etiopiskt fängelse. Mycket har sagts och skrivits om Johans och Martins öde, om Etiopiens regering och rättssystem samt om Lundin Oils och andra oljebolags verksamhet i landet. Mycket litet har dock sagts om själva den väpnade konflikten i Ogaden och utifrån pressens och det som tycks ha varit Schibbyes och Perssons journalistiska uppdrag på platsen kan man lätt få intrycket att det handlar om ännu en oljekonflikt. Så är inte fallet. Vilket då leder mig till frågan: Ogaden, vad handlar det om? (Följande stammar helt från UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia, som man hittar på: http://www.ucdp.uu.se/database)

Ovan en karta som dels visar Ogaden och några av de platser man bekräftat att Johan och Martin befunnitsig

på. Kartan visar även intensiteten i strider och andra våldsamheter mellan den etiopiska regeringen och ONLF

 mellan 1989 och 2010. Helt röda markeringar visar områden med 500 eller fler dödsoffer.

Lite historia

Etiopien är ett av väldigt få länder i Afrika som undgick att koloniseras (Liberia undslapp också, men fler länder kan jag inte komma på på rak arm), då territoriet vid tiden för koloniseringarna styrdes av ett relativt starkt kejsardöme. Landet föll dock under italiensk kontroll efter en invasion på 1930-talet (då Etiopien ofta kallades Abyssinien). Den siste kejsaren på tronen var alla rastafaris bäste vän Haile Selassie, som jag återkommer till om en kort stund.

Området som vi nu kallar Ogaden ligger i sydöstra Etiopien och kom under etiopisk kontroll på 1880-talet. Ogaden är inte dem term för området som den etiopiska regeringen använder, utan de föredrar att kalla den för dess administrativa namn: Somali regionen. Befolkningen här är – till skillnad mot resten av Etiopien – etniskt somaliskt och därmed också muslimsk. Det är förstås på grund av detta faktum som regionen ofta kallas Somali. En annan populär term för området är Västra Somalia, vilket används av de inom området som söker att få området att ingå i ett Stor-Somalia. Just detta, dvs att regionen angränsar till Somalia, av många somalier ses som en del av Somalia, och att befolkningsmajoritet är just somalisk och muslimsk är av vikt för att förstå konflikten.

Hur trevlig och mysig Haile Selassie än framstår som poster boy för rastafaris och reggaemusiken så är det kalla fakta att han var en diktator som behandlade folket i Ogadenregionen synnerligen illa. De flesta i Ogaden levde som nomader och hade konservativa värderingar. Selassie hade inte mycket sympati för detta utan skapade skattesystem som svårt missgynnade dessa nomader samt drev igenom stängningar av koranskolor och omskrivningar av lagar som ogadenierna inte var speciellt nöjda med. I och med Somalias självständighet på tidigt 1960-tal och de drömmar om ett Stor-Somalia som då väcktes (som även innefattade Djibouti och delar av Kenya) tog vissa somalier i Ogaden mod till sig och började kräva autonomi och självständighet. Kring 1963 bildades Ogadens första rebellorganisation Ogaden Liberation Front (OLF). Denna hade dock inte mycket att sätta emot Selassies kejsardöme och utplånades i stort sett under 1964.

Efter detta första uppror blev Selassie än mindre mysig och trevlig. En pacificeringskampanj inleddes och innefattade misshandel, mord, beslagtagning av boskap (vilket är problematiskt om man är nomad) samt en relativt hård kampanj av att placera ut jordbrukare från Amharafolket i de bördigaste områdena i regionen. Värre blev det också när svältkatastrofen 1974-75 slår till i regionen. Många påpekar också att denna blev värre än vad som hade varit nödvändigt eftersom regeringen beslagtagit så pass mycket boskap och förhindrat nomadernas fria rörlighet till bättre betesmarker. Mycket roligare blev det inte heller när kejsare Selassie avhystes från tronen av Mengistu, ledaren för ’Derg’: en mycket mycket barbarisk marxist-leninistisk rörelse som tog kontroll över Etiopien.

Det var således inga större chock att en ny rebellrörelse bildades i kölvattnet av dessa katastrofer. 1976 framträder WSLF (Western Somali Liberation Front), vilka som namnet antyder, stödde Ogadens anslutning till Somalia. Gruppen understöddes mycket kraftigt av Somalias diktator Said Barre, en övertygad kommunist med drömmar om ett Stor-Somalia. WSLF hade en del initiala framgångar mot de etiopiska styrkorna då dessa var synnerligen försvagade av den enorma mängd väpnade konflikter de var inblandade i parallellt med Ogadenkonflikten. ’Dergen’ var som tidigare antytts en extremt brutal regim som inte fick några nya vänner bland de många olika folkgrupperna i Etiopien. Siad Barre i Somalia var dock inte nöjd med WSLF:s framgångar utan beordrade 1977 en invasion av området för att ansluta det till Somalia. Det gick inget vidare och de somaliska styrkorna kastades ut ur landet tillsammans med stora delar av WSLF, som ändock fortsatte göra motstånd fram till 1983 men i betydligt minskad skala. Till slut krossades dock även WSLF till följd av en mycket brutal insats av Mengistus mannar: bland annat ihopfösandet av alla civila i ’skyddade byar’ för att neka WSLF någon form av folkligt stöd.

Rent historiskt har det alltså mest gått utåt för människorna i Ogaden. Från att mest ha ignorerats av det etiopiska kejsardömet på 1880-talet övergick uppmärksamheten till strukturellt förtryck för att avslutas med brutalt våld från både Selassies och Mengistus sida.

Slutet på Mengistu

Även om WSLF hade krossats effektivt dök det snart upp nya aktörer på arenan. Omkring 1984 bildades Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), vilka är den rebellgrupp som Johan och Martin hälsade på. Denna grupp är den enda som fortfarande är aktiv i någon större grad i området. ONLF:s uttalade mål var och är att skapa ett självständigt Ogaden (dvs inte gå ihop med Somalia) och befria sitt folk från vad de anser vara etiopisk kolonialism. Under 1980 och början av 1990-talen var ONLF inte speciellt militärt aktiva eller framgångsrika. Man hade en obetydlig del i det uppror som slutligen kastade ut Mengistu från makten i maj 1991 och som leddes av EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front). Då man var en sådan obetydlig maktfaktor i landet tog man fasta på EPRDF:s erbjudande om att ge Ogaden regional autonomi, även om målet fortsatt var självständighet. I samband med detta avtal fick man även en plats i regeringen. I valen 1992 vann ONLF stora segrar i Ogaden, men samexistensen med centralregeringen (som dominerades av Tigrayfolkets TPLF) darrade betänkligt under 1992 och 1993. Vilket i sin tur ledde till att administrationen i Ogaden (då helt kontrollerad av ONLF) utnyttjade sin konstitutionella (faktiskt) rätt att bli självstyrande. Konstitutionellt eller inte så var detta inte vidare populärt i centralregeringens kretsar och den väpnade konflikten bröt ut igen 1994.

Redan 1994 hade ONLF ett visst bett i käftarna, men man växte inte till sig militärt förrän 1998 då kriget mellan Etiopien och Eritrea (som är en helt annan och ganska bisarr saga) ledde till en stor beredvillighet hos Eritrea att skicka vapen och annat stöd till de rebellgrupper som ville separera sig från den etiopiska staten. Strategiskt sett var tanken här att tvinga Etiopien att omplacera styrkor från gränsen i norr ner till de sydöstra delarna. ONLF blev dock inte ens under Etiopien-Eritreakriget speciellt framgångsrikt militärt sett. Dock fortsätter gerillakriget även i skrivande stund.

Oljan

Olja tycks ha haft mycket litet med utbrottet av den väpnade konflikten att göra. Oljefyndigheter i Ogadenregionen blev en het potatis först på 2000-talet, dvs mer än 40 år efter att rebellgrupper fått rot i området. Det vore dock förenklat att säga att de potentiella oljefyndigheterna inte spelat eller spelar någon roll. Möjligheten till oljeinkomster påverkar givetvis den etiopiska centralregeringens ovilja att tillåta en självständig stat i Ogaden. Och en väldig expansion av antalet etiopiska soldater skedde 2006 delvis som ett svar på ONLF:s hot om att anfalla de främst kinesiska (Zhongyuan Petroleum) och malaysiska (Petronas) prospekteringarna i området. När ONLF 2007 anföll ett kinesiskt oljefält och dödade cirka 74 personer tog regeringsstyrkorna verkligen till hårdhandskarna. Det var vid detta tillfälle som regeringsarmén slog en järnring runt stora delar av Ogaden och kastade ut såväl ICRC som MSF och journalister. Inte mycket har läckt ut från området sedan dess (även om det var svårt att få information redan innan), men av det vi kunnat lägga vantarna på från pålitliga källor framgår det att svåra brott mot mänskliga rättigheter utförs. Och framförallt av regeringsstyrkor. Det skall dock tilläggas att ONLF inte heller är några duvungar.

Avslutning

Det här får räcka som en sammanfattning, även om en hel del mer finns att säga. Speciellt har jag tyvärr uteslutit detaljer om de faktionsstrider som rasat inom ONLF rörande huruvida man skall bedriva sin kampanj militärt eller ej. Men kort och gott kan man säga att ONLF:s kampanj för ett fritt Ogaden har djupa rötter och berör en långtgående historia av negligering och förtryck av olika centralmakter. I mångt och mycket liknar konfliktens historia den som utspelat sig i många andra etiopiska inbördeskonflikter såsom i Oromiya, Afar och Sidamaland.

Så, detta är vad Ogaden handlar om.

Besök UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia:s Etiopiensida för mer info.

Backgrounder: Escalating violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The level of violence is again escalating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Again Rwanda is accused of supporting the rebel faction which has defected from the army: a group called M23. This Tuesday (19/6) the UN Group of Experts submitted a report on the Congo to the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council. But the most controversial part – an annex talking about Rwanda’s involvement in the recent violence – was separated from the report and has not yet been submitted.

The background is that the DRC has been plagued with recurrent violence for many years; in 1996-1997 an armed conflict toppled President Mobutu Sese Seko who had dominated the political life in then Zaire since the 1960s. The rebellion supported by amongst other Rwanda was swiftly completed and the new President Laurent Kabila quickly managed to alienate many of his former allies (amongst them Rwanda) when trying to establish himself as the new leader of the nation.

Organized violence in the DRC 1996-1997 

In August 1998 a new war broke out. Again the rebels were supported by Rwanda. This war is often referred to as Africa’s First World War since so many countries were drawn into the fighting, either supporting one of the rebel groups or the Kabila government.

In January 2001 President Laurent Kabila was killed and his son Joseph Kabila took over office. Real negotiations started and a peace agreement was concluded in late 2002. In 2006, the historical elections provided for in the peace agreement were held in DRC. These elections brought Joseph Kabila to power as the country’s first democratically elected president in 40 years.

 Organized violence in the DRC, 1998-2002

Hopes nurtured by the elections in 2006 were soon shattered, when CNDP (Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple, National Congress for the Defence of the People), a new rebel outfit supported by Rwanda, launched their struggle against the newly elected government. On 23 March 2009 CNDP concluded a peace agreement with the government. Under the agreement CNDP was promised political participation in the government if they transformed into a political party. The agreement also stipulated an amnesty and the release of political prisoners. The agreement also provided for the return of Banyamulenge refugees.

Organized violence in the DRC, 2006-2010 

In 2011 DRC again held general and presidential elections, the sitting President Joseph Kabila and parties loyal to him remained in power. And even though the elections were peaceful in most parts of the country, some believe the main opponent Etienne Tshisekedi was the true winner of the elections.

In late March this new rebellion broke out when former CNDP members left the Congolese army (FARDC) to launch M23.

So what do the rebels want?

The initial aim seems to have been to resist Kinshasa’s attempt to break up CNDP networks in the East and to achieve full implementation of the March 23 Agreement. The group has also said they will unseat the President and some officers have been speaking about taking Masisi territory under their control.

Many believe the M23 is a front to hinder the government of DRC to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, a former CNDP leader and one of the M23 defectors, wanted by the ICC.

Stina Högbladh

Project Manager, UCDP

Backgrounder: Communal conflicts in Nigeria

(click image for a larger version!)

The map above shows the spatial patterns of communal conflicts across Nigeria between 1989-2010. Although clashes between communal groups classified as Christians and Muslims are the ones most often portrayed in the media there are also several other groups who have been in conflict over the years since 1989.

The major hotspots of violence between Christian and Muslim communities is circled on the map with a blue circle. The violence depicted here has been classified along these ‘Christian versus Muslims’ lines, but some specific communities can also be singled out. These contain, but are not limited to, the Hausa and the Fulani (mainly Muslim), Tarok (Christian), Yoruba (mixed religion), Igbo (Christian), Kataf (Christian) and Yugur (mixed, with Christian and traditional beliefs). Plateau, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kano and Taraba states are the heartlands of these conflicts, geographically speaking.

While it is not necessarily erroneous to label these conflicts as being religious ones (since such lines are often visible) the communal conflicts in Nigeria can be ascribed also ethno-linguistic as well as pastoralist-farmer and political characteristics. An excerpt from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia reads:

The conflict between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria is part of a bigger context of ethnic and religious tensions that are present in the Nigeria society. These tensions have on certain occasions escalated into armed conflict. The conflicts often start with a seemingly trivial disagreement and then rapidly deteriorate into religious clashes. The fact that Christianity and Islam are the prominent religions in Nigeria and that the religions are represented in different parts of the country has on several occasions led to mobilisation along religious lines. Another fact that might explain the presence of religious conflicts in Nigeria is the fact that a majority of the 200 ethno-linguistic groups in Nigeria adhere to either Christianity or Islam; thereby it is possible to frame ethnic conflicts in Nigeria as being centred on religious issues. That might very well be the case, and in fact true in some cases, it should however be thoroughly investigated so that it is not a “meta identity” given to the group due to lacking information from news media. Nevertheless there are Christian – Muslim conflicts in Nigeria, the point is that a majority of the ethnic and communal clashes in Nigeria can be described using this overarching labelling.

As is visible from the map there are also other communal conflicts in Nigeria, beyond the Christian versus Muslim dichotomy. The southwest part of Nigeria stands out as a second hotspot, mainly in the states of the Nigerian delta. There is a very large number of groups who have fought each other since 1989 in these areas, and the conflicts here are not easily classified in terms of Christians versus Muslims or any other religions. A common theme here has instead been conflicts over land-owner rights, as these areas in Nigeria’s delta are sources of the country’s enormous oil wealth. But there are many other political and economic grievances stated by and between these groups.Many of the ethnic groups here have formed ethno-political interest groups, such as the Ogono group MOSOP and the Ijaw groups IYC and NDV. An excerpt from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia reads:

The southern region of Nigeria, and especially the delta area, is where the crude oil that constitutes a substantial amount of the Nigerian revenues is located. The fact that the oil and the subsequent incomes that can be extracted from it are concentrated to this area, in which several ethnic groups have their homeland, has led to violent episodes between ethnic groups contesting the ownership of land in and around the oil rich delta area. Given these conditions, a number of groups mobilized and formed interest groups speaking on the behalf of the ethnicities. This polarized the already fragile relations in the southern parts of Nigeria, and led to a situation where contested ownership of land, taxation of land or even number of employees at the oil facilities were all potential conflict issues.

The most intense conflicts in this area have stood between the Adoni and Ogoni communities (around Port Harcourt, circled in green), the Ijaw and Itsekiri (mainly in the Warri area, circled in yellow), the Aguleri and Umuleri (around Onitsha, circled in purple) and the Ife and Modakeke (around Ibadan and Ondo, circled in white).

The last two hotspots show fighting between the Ukele and Izzi (south of Oturkpo on the map), and between Hausa and Yoruba around Lagos.

Want to read more about these conflicts and their varying characteristics? Visit the Nigeria page of the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia.

//R

Backgrounder: Situation in Mali

The situation in Mali has now become a relatively large issue in the news, especially so with the proclamation of an independent Islamic state called the Islamic Republic of Azawad. What has been going on in Mali can look pretty confusing, especially since earlier news focused mainly on the issue of the Touraeg rebellion. So, here’s a short backgrounder on what’s been going on:

From the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia:

“In the early 1990s, Touareg and Arab nomads inhabiting the sparsely populated northern part of Mali formed MPA (Mouvement Populaire de l’Azaouad, Azawad People’s Movement) with the aim to achieve autonomy for their home region called Azawad. After a peace agreement in 1991, MPA stopped fighting the government, whilst a break-away faction called FIAA (Front Islamique Arabe de l’Azaouad: Islamic Arab Front of Azawad) did not support the accord and continued the struggle in 1994. However, the following year FIAA accepted to reintegrate itself into the peace process and declared a permanent cease-fire that led to a cessation of hostilities. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw a growing dissatisfaction among the former Touareg fighters who had been integrated into the army. Subsequently, in 2007 a new Touareg rebel group emerged and briefly fought the government.”

In short, numerous rebel groups and breakaway factions from within the Touareg people have been fighting the government of Mali since the early 1990s. Like in many conflicts in these parts rebel groups come and go and often integrate into the national army as consequences of not very far-reaching peace agreements (i.e. they don’t very often attempt to resolve the main issue in the conflict.

The main issue is (from the UCDP Conflict Encyclopedia):

“The territorial conflict, fought between a number of Touareg and Arab rebel groups and the Malian government, concerns the status of the Azawad region in northern Mali. With some seeking independence and others fighting for autonomy, the rebels have at times been very successful in fighting the government on their own home turf. Due to the government’s inability to respond effectively to the rebels’ guerrilla warfare, the latter have managed to pursue their on and off armed struggle during the 1990s and the 2000s.[…] The Azawad is an area comprising parts of northern Mali, northern Niger, and part of southern Algeria. In Mali the territory includes portions of the Kidal Region”

So, the conflict stands over the status of this mainly Touareg-inhabited area called Azawad, which spans several countries. Armed conflicts have also taken place in Niger between Touaregs and that government over this territory.

Resentment towards the government from the Touareg side stems from a north-south divide which is prevalent in many countries that were formerly French colonies in the area. The Touaregs feel –with some justice- neglected by the government:

“The Touaregs are a pastoral, nomadic people, scattered among a number of West- and North African states. In Mali, they comprise less than ten percent of the total population, but make up much of the population in the sparsely populated northern regions of the country, deep in the Sahara desert. This area is called Azawad by the Touaregs, a term used in the names of all rebel groups in the armed conflict in the 1990s. Traditionally, the North in general, and the Touaregs in particular, have been both economically and politically neglected. This neglect has been compounded by severe drought and a brutal, southern, military presence. Dissent has been expressed numerous times since independence, but until the 1990s, the government managed to repress it.

In the mid-1970’s and onwards, large numbers of young Touaregs from both Mali and Niger emigrated to Libya and Algeria due to severe droughts. The ones who ended up in Libya received military training, as General Qadhafi incorporated some into his regular military forces and inducted others into a Libyan-sponsored “Islamic Legion”. The latter was subsequently dispatched to Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan, where numerous Touaregs acquired considerable combat training. Along with the military training received, the emigrants in Libya were politically active and formed the Mouvement Touareg de Libération de l’Adrar et de l’Azawad, an organisation dedicated to the liberation of the northern areas of Mali and Niger. In 1988, encouraged by Libya, the Malian section of the movement split from the Nigerien one, and formed MPLA (Mouvement Populaire de Libération de l’Azaouad: Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) under the leadership of Iyad ag Ghali. In the late 1980s, most Malian Touaregs were expelled from Algeria and Libya, due to deteriorating economic conditions in the host countries. Newly received military capabilities combined with protracted historic grievances and a lack of alternatives, subsequently led the Touaregs in MPLA to initiate an armed struggle against the Malian government in June 1990.”

Nowadays none of the rebel groups mentioned above are big players or players at all in the conflict. The latest fighting has stood instead between the government of Mali and the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) and Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith); an Islamist outfit. Throughout the first months of this year these two groups took control of some of the major towns in northern Mali, such as Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

The intensification of the conflict in 2012 and the subsequent successes by these two rebel outfits was likely brought on by two different factors: (1) the ousting of Khaddafi in Libya and (2) the coup in Mali. As was mentioned earlier in this post many Touaregs took part in Khaddafi’s armies and when he fell many  streamed back into northern Mali and created the MNLA (the MNLA is a fusion of two previous Touareg movements: the NAM and the MTNM). Also, the ousting of Khaddafi appears to have led to an influx of weapons to Islamist outfits in the region, such as the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine. The coup in Mali then opened up the field for a wide offensive in the north, as chaos reigned in the capital in the south.

After the offensive many were expecting the advent of infighting between Ansar Dine and the MNLA, as Ansar Dine is explicitly Islamist whilst the MNLA has a more nationalist inclination and has never spoken out in favor of sharia law. This didn’t happen, and instead these two groups formed a pact and proclaimed the Islamic Republic of Azawad.

This of course caught the eye of western powers and the western media, as it is a clear expansion of Islamist power in the region. AQIM already has an established presence in Mauretania and Algeria and an Islamist presence in northern Mali may serve to bind together a vast expanse of territory under the control of these organizations.

The reasoning of the MNLA in this regard is unclear. Joining up with an Al-Qaeda affiliated outfit is probably not the most strategic of choices, as I am sure we will soon see.

//Ralph Sundberg