The Ogaden Voice for Peace Held a Successful Human Rights ConferenceOctober 21, 2009
On 16-18 October 2009, The Ogaden Voice for Peace held a successful human rights conference in San Diego along with the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Along with the many speakers, were representatives of many communities throughout North America.
Introduction was given by The Joan Kroc Institute for Peace’s Director Dr. Milburn Line and Abdi Mohamoud of the Ogaden Voice for Peace. After introduction, A presentation was conducted about the Ogaden Voice for Peace its history, mission, vision and the activities of the past 5 years and how the organization’s activities have changed how the conflict is seen around the world. In the end, Mr. Mohamoud emphasized the importance not only of human rights activism within The United States, but also the need for International support for a permanent settlement of this conflict through dialogue.
Individual presentations were given by Charles F. (Chic) Dambach, President & CEO of Alliance for Peace Building in which he addressed past successes involving effective third party Engagements in conflict resolution. An example was his involvement in mediation to end the deadly war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2000, conflict resolution strategies, and future goals of his organization towards conflict resolution and mediation. Mr. Dambach believed that proven techniques in conflict resolution and mediation could be a key in solving the Ogaden region’s political stalemate.
Mr Hamse Warfa, Executive Director Institute for Horn of Africa Studies and Affairs presented a presentation titled „The challenge of Finding Peace in the Ogaden Region: A Conflict Analysis” began by speaking about the current state of the conflict and the many different factors that are contributing to the continuation of The challenge of Finding Peace in the Ogaden Region: A Conflict Analysis of this forgotten tragedy. Even though torture, beatings, and extrajudicial killings are still prevalent in the Ogaden, the current regime has gone further than their predecessors by implementing an elaborate and more sophisticated security measures of suppression, intimidation and terror.
The second panel followed with a presentation from Fowsia Abdulkadir who addressed the recurring nightmare of the refugee experience, underlining the plight of the region’s inhabitants. In this presentation, Fowsia attempted to put a human face to the suffering of the people. Linking this perpetual experience of mass exodus and displacement with the meaning and what this place and land mean to its people and Somalis in general.
The second presentation was given by Rory Linnane, a student of the University of Wisconsin who went to Ethiopia to volunteer for an educational program in Oromia, Ethiopia. Ms. Linnane presented a powerful firsthand experience of being captured, detained and expelled from Ethiopia, in what she termed as "An American nightmare". These two presentations actually complimented each other, as they both highlighted the plight of the people of Ethiopia under the brutal dictatorship of the current regime. The regime sees education as an enemy because it might empower women and the poor.
The next speaker was Dr. Ali Khalif Galaydh who brings an impressive background as a Businessman, Educator, Diplomat, and Statesman. Dr. Galaydh presented the challenges that are facing Somalia, its people and how the future is being stolen from a whole generation. Dr. Galyadh was able to link together the factors that are contributing to the chaos that is prevalent in Somalia today. Somalia’s history was presented as a nation that was a model for the rest of Africa when it comes to democratic institutions, development and stability. Somalia’s problems are being contributed by neighbors, and political leaders that are failing to seize the moment and an international community that has given up on Somalia and its people.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Mr. Mr. Joel Wiegert of the Office of East African Affairs at the U.S. State Department. Mr. Wiegert opened his speech with a greeting from Assistant Secretary of State Carson who was unable to attend but sent Mr. Wiegert to represent him. Mr. Wiegert presented US Policy towards the Horn of Africa with an emphasis on Ethiopia and the Ogaden region. After presenting US Policy, the audience was given an opportunity to ask questions. Mr. Wiegert stated that US Ethiopian relations were strong but that even allies do not agree on all issues and there are many issues that the US and Ethiopian governments talk about behind closed doors. On the Ogaden, Mr. Wiegert stated that it’s the position of the US Government that dialogue be used to address the underlying political issues in the Ogaden. A member of the audience questioned US commitment on resolving this conflict and Mr. Wiegert stated that the US State Department takes this issue very seriously and he wouldn’t be at this conference if this was not the case.
This was followed by the closing of the conference’s first day.
The second day was a private session, where community leaders across North America discussed in-depth the challenges and opportunities in the Horn of Africa as it pertains to the Ogaden. Various ways to strengthen the existing network to engage policy makers of all levels were discussed. This roundtable of idea sharing was concluded with resolutions and recommendations for next steps.
The Ogaden Voice for Peace
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