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International Law

Report confirms the claims of Ogaden people to self-determination

December 10, 2015

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Students in the law school’s Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Workshop have completed a report examining claims by the people of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia to self-determination (an international legal principle allowing nations to choose their sovereignty). The report concludes that the people have an undisputed right to “internal” self-determination in the sense of a meaningful role in their own governance, and a valid right to “external” self-determination or secession from Ethiopia. The workshop’s report catalogues the political oppression and electoral manipulation by the Ethiopian authorities that have generated the legal right to internal self-determination; and argues that these, coupled with widespread and serious human rights abuses perpetrated on the Odagen people, raise the possibility of a right of unilateral secession from Ethiopia.

The report is the product of work undertaken by law students enrolled in the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Workshop, in association with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation in The Hague. At the suggestion of UNPO, the workshop participants selected the self-determination claims made by the Ogaden National Liberation Front on behalf of the people of Ogaden to investigate and conduct legal analysis. The report will be used by UNPO, and by the ONLF, in promoting the interests of Ogaden and its people in international fora, particularly in negotiations with the Ethiopian authorities.

Johanna Green from the UNPO International Secretariat commends the report as “very useful for our work.” Abdirahman Mahdi, the chief negotiator for the ONLF, says the report is a “great paper … a wonderful job. You have captured the essence of the matter.” Professor John Grant, who supervised the workshop, comments: “What is remarkable about this report is its nuanced approach to any Ogaden right of secession. While secession is explicitly provided for in the Ethiopian Constitution, any non-consensual split in Ethiopia would run afoul of the African Union’s implacable opposition to any interference with the territorial integrity of existing states.” 

The student workshop participants are (top row, L to R) Tessa Copeland, Alex Meggitt, Brandon Chirco, Tyler Johnson, Kathrin Sears, Joe Callahan, (bottom row) Lindsey O’Neill, Anna Sagatelova, Rebecca Rogstad, Professor John Grant, Khalid AlArfaj.

Read the Report