Addis Ababa – Abdikarim Muse aka ‘Qalbi Dhagah’ was a prominent Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) commander who was freed from Ethiopian custody this week.
A handful of Ogaden Somali ‘liberation movements’ have heeded recent Ethiopian calls for disarmament.
Qalbi Dhagax was abducted in 2017 while on a short visit in the Galmudug region, in the town of Adado, for family matters. He was initially suspected of being part of the Al-Shabab terrorist group and haphazardly thrown in jail. However, when his name was checked against a system, it was flagged up as being on the list of Ethiopian ‘wanted terrorists’. Subsequently, the government of Somalia, under President Farmaajo’s administration, extradited one of the most iconic nationalist figures in current day Somalia.
Who are the ONLF?
The ONLF describes itself as a political movement that serves as a “defender of” Somalis in Ogaden, a region of eastern Ethiopia with a large ethnic Somali population, against Ethiopian regimes. Founded in 1984 by members of a variety of ethnic Somali liberation groups, it can also be described as a separatist rebel group fighting to make Ogaden an independent state.
Ogaden is primarily and historically a Somali region, it is the proverbial Ethiopian thorn in Somalia’s side. Even today, the region is almost exclusive inhabited by Somalis and many more aspire for it to be returned to greater Somalia. It is a vast, fertile region which is agriculturally and energy rich.
Why was ‘Qalbi Dhagax’ freed?
We do not know the exact conditions under which ‘Qalbi Dhagax’ was freed, however it is possible that there has been some sort of compromise between ONLF leadership and the Ethiopian government. A compromise such as Ogaden becoming a semi-semi-autonomous Ethiopian state, as opposed to Ogaden becoming fully independent.
This is compatible with Ethiopia’s aspiration of ‘Abyssinian’ expansionism into Somalia.
It is worth remembering that the Somali government were willing to serve Ethiopia ‘Qalbi Dhagax’ on a plate. This may have created a paradigm shift in the thinking of ONLF leadership.
The other possibility is that Ethiopia is trying to acquire favor from the Somali people, although this is unlikely as there has been no official Ethiopia statement on the matter.
The Federal Government of Somalia are also yet to comment.