Nov 2018

Diaspora youth take part in ongoing Ethiopian peace process

Last week, young people from the Somali Regional State (commonly known as the Ogaden region) gathered in London to discuss how they can participate in, and influence, the ongoing peace process in Ethiopia.
The one-day event, hosted by Conciliation Resources, was organised after last month’s signing of an historic peace deal between the Government of Ethiopia and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The deal brings to an end 20 years of insurgency and counter-insurgency in the Somali Regional State and paves the way for the ONLF to return to the region and pursue its political objectives through peaceful means. 
Conciliation Resources has been supporting this peace process for the past six years. This has included facilitating dialogue meetings with diaspora communities, to help them feed their perspectives and priorities on peace into the formal negotiations, as well as promoting opportunities for wider dialogue and reconciliation in the region
The London event was attended by members of the Ogaden Youth and Student Union (OYSU) from across the UK, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. Members from within the Somali Regional State joined by phone. OYSU is an international youth organisation which advocates for the rights of the Somali people in Ethiopia. Hamdi Ali Sahal, is a member of OYSU living in Oslo:

This meeting provided a really important learning opportunity among like-minded youth from various different countries. We were all brought together by our shared connection to the Ogaden region, and our dedication to becoming agents of change during the ongoing transition process.

The purpose of the event was to allow the youth to exchange ideas on their role and contribution to peace and development in the Somali Regional State during the transitional period and beyond. They formulated concrete activities and initiatives to be implemented in 2019 and discussed approaches for connecting diaspora and local youth groups within the region. Laila Hassan is a member of OYSU living in London:

This event provided us with a crucial platform to openly discuss, debate, and formulate future plans around the specific role of youth during the transition process in the Ogaden region. I feel that we came up with some very promising action-points that I am genuinely looking forward to working with OYSU and Conciliation Resources on.

During the meeting, the OYSU met members of the Truth, Memory and Reconciliation Commission of Colombian Women in the Diaspora (Diaspora Women for short) – a group that Conciliation Resources has been supporting for the past three years. This initiative has documented over 100 testimonies from women who left Colombia during over 50 years of armed conflict, and who now live in London, Barcelona and Stockholm. The women shared their reflections and experiences of how diaspora groups can engage with, and contribute to peace processes and wider reconciliation initiatives. 
The diaspora youth were also joined by Abdirahman Sh. Mahdi, Secretary General of the ONLF and the ONLF’s chief negotiator in Asamara. He shared his perspective on the important role young people should play in the peace deal’s implementation.