Thursday, June 11, 2009

Meeting with Ogadeni National Liberation Front delegation

In an effort to stay informed about developments in the Ethiopian Ogaden, also known as Somali Region, I met in Washington on June 9 with representatives of one wing of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). They were Salahdin Abdurahman Maow, chairman of the Supreme Council of the ONLF, and Abdiwali Hussein Gas, director of social and diaspora affairs. The meeting was cordial and informative for me. See the picture below. Earlier this year, a number of leaders broke away from the original ONLF which has been led for many years by Chairman Mohamed Osman. (For the sake of full disclosure, I should note that I met in Washington on September 10, 2007, with Mohamed Osman and several of his lieutenants.) Osman continues to serve as chairman of the original ONLF organization. The new wing of the ONLF said that the failure of Mohamed Osman to hold a party conference and allow the election of new leadership caused it to break with the organization. The ultimate goal of the new wing, like that of the Mohamed Osman wing, is the eventual independence of the Ogaden from Ethiopia. I will leave to Chairman Maow and his colleagues to explain the positions of their wing of the ONLF. I want to use the occasion of this meeting, however, to make clear my own position concerning the Ogaden. I do not, of course, necessarily speak for the U.S. government. While I am sympathetic to legitimate Somali grievances in Somali Region of Ethiopia, I do not support independence of the Ogaden. Such a development would constitute the first step in the break up of Ethiopia as it is known today. I do not think such a development is in the interest of the United States. The only way to end continuing pressures by the ONLF and others to try to detach the Ogaden from Ethiopia is for Ethiopia to deal more effectively with Somali grievances throughout the region. While some Somalis will never be satisfied with Ethiopia’s efforts, I believe a majority could be convinced that it is in their interest to remain as part of Ethiopia if there was more local autonomy and a more serious effort by the Ethiopian government to develop the region. An Ethiopian response based largely on a military presence and reaction is not the answer. UPDATE: Pictures from the meeting are also posted on this site, maintained by Bartamaha Media.


  1. I am surprised and saddened to see you making two short sighted and incorrect statements.

    1) “Osman continues to serve as chairman of the original ONLF organization”

    How did you come to this conclusion? Are you aware of what happened since the last time you met Osman? Are you also aware of the fate of Dr Mohamed Dolal – founder of the ONLF?

    If you are aware of these new facts, then you would have known that Osman is in hiding because of a crime he has committed against the ONLF and the Ogaden people that he should have been working for.

    In actual fact, there isn’t any other person, party or organization that sees Osman as the leader of the ONLF anymore except you. The TRUE leader of the ONLF is now Salah Maow and there aren’t any differing “wings” in the ONLF. However, a certain previous leader has been ousted for high crimes.

    2) “I do not support independence of the Ogaden”

    This statement was the more devastating. What is even more devastating is your reason behind this statement.

    You say that “Such a development would constitute the first step in the break up of Ethiopia as it is known today”. Does this mean just because we know Ethiopia as it is today and even if the way it came about is incorrect, then it is just fine as it is? In other words, don’t “rock the boat”; surely this isn’t your reason as that is what is gathered from statement?!

    You also mention “I do not think such a development is in the interest of the United States”. What about the interests of the people living in the Ogaden region? They are suffering human rights violations that the US government knows is happening as the US government have reported human rights as being “poor” in Ethiopia year after year?

    To add to the evidence, several other institutions have reported this such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and many other institutions.

    We all know how Ethiopia came to be. We all know the problems in Ethiopia and the crimes committed by the current Ethiopian regime. It is bad enough not to be doing something about this, but it’s even worse to not recognise the problems and the solutions needed!

    In some conciliation, I agree with your last statement. Ethiopia needs to make more efforts in the Ogaden. However, this hasn’t happened for decades, and it is not likely that they will change their ways, which only leaves very limited alternatives, one of which is Ethiopia to let go of the Ogaden region, since that land does not belong to Ethiopia. I am sure the British government can verify this fact!

    I apologise for my blunt reply but I was truly disappointed with those statements.

  2. I thank anonymous for his or her thoughtful comments but regret that the comment is anonymous. I am aware of the fate of Dr. Mohamed Dolal but am not clear what has happened to Mohamed Osman. It is my understanding, however, that there are still two wings of the ONLF.

    As for my view on opposing independence of the Ogaden, I have stated on numerous occasions that I am interested primarily in U.S. interests -- not those of Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, etc. If you are looking for a point of view that serves as the spokesperson for a particular group in the Horn of Africa, you are reading the wrong blog.

    I try to weigh the evidence and conclude what is best for the United States. Although I have a deep interest in Africa, I am an American.

  3. It is very sad to see that this group and their apologists trying to seek legitimacy from their contact with Ambassador D. Shinn. Meeting foreign dignitaries would not change the facts on the ground. I am not a member of ONLF but as a Somali from the Ogaden I am aware of the facts on the ground. The Ogaden people know who their leaders are. Misappropriating ONLF funds and claiming to be ONLF chairman will not make one a leader of the Ogaden people.
    Having said that I would like to say to the distinguished Ambassador D. Shinn that the interest of United States would better be served in democratic, peaceful free societies in Horn of Africa, rather than feudalistic, underdeveloped and autocratic false states ruled by the gun and bolstered by foreign financial support. Ethiopia is the poorest nation on earth not by mistake but by the need to maintain large armies in order to suppress the nations under its rule. No nation on earth can cope with perpetual wars. Europe reached stability and prosperity only when each nation was allowed its rights. The Horn of Africa will never settle or develop as long as the rights of the nations in Ethiopia are ignored. The current calamity in Somalia and other parts of the Horn is a direct result of such policies of empowering a few to subjugate the rest of the people in Ethiopia and other parts of the Horn. If the interest of the USA is in keeping the current status Quo in the Horn of Africa, no wander than why its status as a world leader is in jeopardy! I strongly believe the interest of the USA would be better served by supporting the rights of peoples instead of defending outmoded non-functioning colonial structures from the past. The world is inter-related and egoistic pursuit of one party’s interest without regard to others is counterproductive and in the long run hurts the interest of all. Finally the Ogaden people and others in Ethiopia know what their best interests are and will continue to struggle until achieved regardless of the opinion of others.

  4. Amb. Shiin,

    Did you ever think that the only reason they met with you was because they could not meet with anyone else and that they needed you to get them other appointments??? They didn't make you make phone calls for them did they???

    People check for references even when they hire an intern, did you even ask around about these folks before you met them??? What if another individual comes to you tomorrow and says, "I am the chairman of ONLF". Will you take a picture with him as well??

  5. Dear David Shin

    Thank you very much for your meeting with the chairman of Supreme Council of ONLF his delegate who was Washington for Ogaden cause.

    Actualy you met with a legitimate leaders of ONLF who sucrify them selvies for Ogaden freedom and ONLF Constitution be implemented.

    Ali Mohamed

  6. Dear Amb. David;

    You are respected diplomat and scholar. I am so surprised you met an individual who claimed to be an ONLF let alone be the chairman!

    I think you should do background check before you meet such a people and write their story!



  7. Dear David Shin,

    We, all as Ogaden communities, living in the U.S.A and Europe are surprised that you met with some people who were claim they are another wing of ONLF which wasn`t not true.

    I`d like you diplomat Shin to look for more facts about the background of those two guys before you approve them as ONLF officials.

    They aren`t representing anyone, any community or ONLF soldiers fighting against Ethiopian armies in Ogaden.

    Actually, they just wanted a legitimacy of ONLF leadership from America and take some pictures with you.

    If anyone wants to meet and discuss about ONLF, General Osman is a real leader of ONLF.

    There is only one wing of ONLF not two wings.



  8. Dear David Shinn
    You are one of the few respected expert for the horn of Africa' political, economical and human rights problems. I am very happy that you welcome the true leaders of democratically elected ONLF in your office. Engineer Salahdin Maow is the current leaders of ONLF. However, there are some people who are still following the former leader Mohamed Osman because of loyalty or clan relationship biases.
    Here in the west, we value democracy and elections, but that part of world isn't.
    As Somali American and not member of ONLF, I believe there are two opposing ideas; first one has a enthusiasm for democracy process – that is for Salahdin’s part of ONLF. But the second one is tradition, communist embedded dictatorship which is very famous in Africa and Asia.
    Thus, we need to support the one that have or will have the legitimacy and support of the people.
    Again, thank you for devoting some of your precious time and energy to welcome those open minded ONLF leaders.

  9. Your thoughtful analysis about the horn of Africa is outstanding one. Your meeting with the ONLF Chairman Eng. Maow was interesting and encouraging one. We support his leadership of the organization ONLF.

  10. Dear AMB. David Shinn,
    Thank for meeting with true leader that has a grassroot support. One questions hat needs to be asked is whether one have to support leaders with democratic values or with those that are reminants of failed socialism ideology, and dictatorship. The later being Mr. Omar Osman while the first is the S. Counlcil of ONLF leader Mr. Maow
    Thank you

  11. Dear Amb. David

    Perhaps, you should have done some bachground checks, into who Mr. Maow!. Mr Maow did not even come from Ogaden.

    Though I whole heartedly respect your wishes, to further U.S interests in the Horn Of Africa, Have you genuinely asked your self, how best that can be acheived.

    Do you actually think, Supporting a country, which is in existance through the barrel of the gun, a country concocted by European colonizers, a country that is mass-murdering its citizens, will best serve the U.S interests.
    No, wonder the HRW, accused the United States, of being complicit, in the genocide, perpetrated by Meles Zenawi, in the Ogaden.

    Are you honestly, Mr Ambassador, claiming, US interest is realized, through the Opression of other people?.

    Could you also, elaborate more on your assertion, that it is in Ogaden peoples' interest to remain within Ethiopia?.

    What happened to U.S claims, of "spreading and supporting, Democracy"

    I am absolutely astounded, by some of your claims.

    thank you.

  12. i am sorru Amsador to meet such kind of people which is dont have any support with in ogaden comunity therfore please its better to keep record in good way intead of having meeting like abduwali london bus frive while saluhadin is big corruption man so please try to keep your dignity and your volue other wise .

    mustafa london UK

  13. I am utterly shocked and surprised to see the distinguished Ambassador and respectfull political analyst has such fallen to the trap of misguided individuals claiming to be ONLF.

    I strongly recomend you that please do some background checking before meeting dubious individuals such these ones for the sake of your own reputation.

    There are no two wings of ONLF for your information, however, there has been a group ex-ONLF diaspora members who were expelled from the organization after they failed to carry out thier duties. Mr Salahadin was one of them and he has nevet set foot in the Ogaden. It's these disgruntled expelled members who call themselves ONLF SupremeCouncil.


  14. Dear Amb Shinn,
    iam really glad that you met with our chairman Engineer Salahdin Abdurahman Maow as he was in Washington with Abdiwali Hsein Gaas.

    You pointed out that the formel chairman Mohamed Omar Osman is still the leader of the original ONLF.

    The fact is, that Mr Maow and Mr. Dolal brought Mr. Mohamed Omar in the ONLF. He was not even a member by the ONLF before chairman Salahdin Maow invited him to become a member by them.

    Question: who is the original ONLF? Engineer Maow or the killer Mohamed Omar Osman

  15. Your Exellence AMB David Shinn

    Thank you very much for your meeting with the current ONLF Chairman Eng Salahdin Maow and the head of social and diaspora department of ONLF hero Mr. Abdiwali H. Gas while they where in Washington for the search of support of Ogaden freedon and salvation of Ogaden somali peaple.

    Your Exellence, I personaly appoligise you the barbaric comments against you from the suporters of tyrant General Mohamed Omar Osman who has an old ideas of comminists and dictatorial rule in which he refused to follow the dimocratic constitution of ONLF in which he became chairman and the party conferences to be held so a legitimate central commitee and chairman of ONLF could be elected.

    Those people,who are trying to take away your freedom of expresion are the supporters of Mohamed omar Osman who was elected in 1998 for four years term and who rejected the party conferrence to be held upto now. Therefore please do not think they are normal people who live in 21st century and put their comments into the pin.

    Your exellence. The Ogaden people are under your feet and they realy need your support day and night so please help them for your big voice, in oder to stop the genocide against Ogaden people and Ogaden to be free from ethiopian colony.

    Thank once again

  16. For the first time I visited the Divid Shinn'Blog, I saw the a short writting that the bloger wrote about the visit of ONLF leader Salahdin Mao. Then, he discribe his views about the ONLf and Ogaden.

    Somone not mention name, blamed Mr shinn about creating two parts of ONLf, which in fact do not exist.

    On the commenter was combplained Mr Shinn how he ignored the trouble situation living the Ogaden People.

    I am very surpprised the wrong direction the some people they twisted the story.

    Ogaden people your comments is clear what Divid shinn wrote on his blog. I believe you are not ready to have independent even autonomy. because you fighting for nothing.

    Please get back the Divid' writting and talk about it.

    Thank you

  17. let me thank to Mr sheen for his king meeting with new leaders,

    excellence View piont, the fact still remaind
    the people who are along side of MR Omar and sending their commen across hidding their names should fill shame,

    others who said background should be chack let me remain verybody, we are not blind we see who is right and who is wrong,

    Mr Maow and his team did not commete any wrong doing,what so ever,if you have any prove
    then we kind ask you to produce it, the only think you guy know is wrong languege,

    the leadership of Mr Omar was wast of time and maney, no improvement come out all this time, Dr Dolaal death was clear and interview with Somali BBC the week before he was killed, we heard what we was saying,

    one of the reason why their is not improvement is the fact people think they know when their actuale they have not clue what is going around, and they I deology is next two zero,

    Ogaden is not the land of only Ogaden tribe their other somali tribe who live they and saffering in the Hand of Ethiopia,guys wake up open you eyes,


    Abdi wahid

  18. Thnks Mr Shinn. I ´m an ogeden person whose not supporting one of the Two fuctions of onlf, but the fact is, that General Osman wasn´t in Ogaden for the last decade as being one of the Ruling party in somalia and comitted a lot of crimes against Humanity in somali(He killed,tortured,raped, displased thousand of innocents in North somalia) as his writehand mann (abdirahman madey) the former adviser of General Aidid has committed crimes in Somalia, as he killed American peacekeeping soldiers in somalia in 1993. so i see these guys,are in hiding, want to change their bloodshell shirts and put another shirts on becouse of moving in to Ogaden and creating problems in there.people saying, backgroud check, I say Maow was born in Kalafo in Ogaden region but brought up in somali instead Abdirahman madey Born in Kenya, went school in kenya as he isn´t Ogaden nor somali.

    I say to Mr Shinn its shame to meet such persons who killed american soldiers in Somali and saying your an american nad have a deep interest of American interest.

  19. It is now clear that my June 9 meeting with Salahdin Abdurahman Maow and Abdiwali Hussein Gas stirred up a lot of controversy among Ogadenis around the world. Isn't that one of the goals of a blog?

    In any event, I appreciate your different points of view. It is now obvious, however, that there are AT LEAST two ONLF factions even if some of you are not prepared to acknowledge that fact.

    Let me be clear on one other point. I meet with persons having widely divergent views in order to gain a better understanding of the issue, not because I necessarily support any particular group.

  20. I thank you Amb. Shin for sharing this blog which stirred controversy among thugs and confused the rest of the somali ethiopians who are ready and willing to share country and flag with their fellow other ethnics in this great country with great the history. we all make one unique country and things are better not perfect. I hope one day the somali region will become peaceful and prospetous and first step to put an end to ONLF. Their leadership have vision nor goals other than mis manage money collect from already poor families from diaspora who think they are contributing a good cause. ONLF has rejected all peace plan proposal via tribal leaders politicians and international third parties.
    They think spearding lies and grapping headlines will do them any good like this fabricated story posted on bbc (In this village, they ..soldier.. crushed babies heads with stones) I came from this region and visited many times nothing onlf says surprises me anymore... onlf lost all credibility in this region, counry and the world. Please Abm. dont waste your valuable time with it.

  21. You must be kidding. Do you think a few coordinated posts on your blog constitutes a "stirr" among the Ogaden diaspora. Plz...

    Many of us always thought you were a bit full of yourself and now you have confirmed it.

    The fact is that no one really cares for your analysis anymore. The Obama administration don't listen to people like you anymore.

    You are now 'old school'....Mr. Shiin.

    Plz, don't flatter yourself. Stick to teaching kids who don't really care about what you have to say but just need a decent grade at GW

  22. David it is important for you not to treat African's like children. The level of effort you put into determining that there are 2 ONLF groups is really sad. It is obvious that because this is Africa, you probably feel like you don't have to do your homework at all. You can simply declare that there are two factions. What if we planted a couple of other men (and maybe added a woman this time) to come to you and say that they were the legitimate leaders of the ONLF. Would you then say there is a 3rd faction???

    Check you Ego David. You've been had and you don't even know it and what is worse, because it's Africa, you probably think that no one will even notice that you have been had

  23. It is shoking to see those people are anly supporting MR Osman just for close tribe,

    dont you think this will end you engush, and divided those who are suffering to part,

    this is indipendency war not One clan of ogaden agains other we are all one we should be working as unity,

    let me all remind you Mr Shinn is a America man who is proud of his country, non of you are proud of you becouse your all are bunch of failer,

    if one policy dont work then other policy should be interduce in the interest of the ogaden people, that is what supreme court of ONLF is doing and we should all be working close with them,

    we must put all our different on side and work closly so we can all Achieve the task, other wise we are going around like the wheel on the bus goes around and around around and around,

    what is the gold here? is it to gain our freedom, or to support Mr Osman and his dream
    the dream in which he is still looking to gain,which is no where near what we are looking for, what more people pay high price for,their is only one man dream here and that dream is personal Mr Osman know how to sweet hurnt put he is far way from the reality,

    we need to look our interest not the presonal,what He did not acheive in 30 years do you think we will acheive now, no no no no

    even my 4 years old doughter know better then that,

    what Mr Osman his supproters were talling me for long time was the man who implenet the freedom fight was Mr Makhtal Dahir Infact they were lairing I want and did my ourn reseach and find the Mr Makhtal Did not start the idea it was Other man A every young man well educated, that show this people are,
    in resisem world, pushing other people they hard work so they can gate name for them self,

    you all need to go and check one backround who implement the freedom fight in ogaden,do you all know that man his background the simple answer is no, no one of you know,

    infact ONLF is more democratic then Melez Zanawi and his administaration, we hard election bad luck we select the wrong guy,

    now our people are the one paying the price,

    Nadiira musral