On the complexity of analyzing armed opposition: Objectives, labeling, and reflections on Ethiopia’s Somali Region


Tipo de publicación: Artículo

Editorial / Institución editora: Journal of African History, Politics, and Society,   .


Since the end of the Cold War, a significant number of armed conflicts have taken place in Africa. Most of these conflicts have occurred within states and many African governments  have  faced  opposition  movements  resorting  to  violence  and  armed  struggle. However, the political claims and trajectories of armed opposition groups have differed to a large degree in relation to their distinct political contexts. While some have become considerably apolitical over time, others have sought to live up to their initially-stated  ideologies  and  objectives.  Moreover,  the  often  complex, disputed, and  fragmented  nature  of  the  leaderships  of  armed  opposition  organizations  in Africa tends to mask their ultimate political objectives, which are usually difficult to pinpoint.
This article presents a selection of tentative findings from a study on armed opposition groups in the greater Horn of Africa. Focusing on the Ogaden National Liberation  Front  (ONLF)  in  Ethiopia, it highlights  the  problems  associated  with determining  the political  objectives  of  armed  opposition  organizations,  as  well as the difficulties associated with labeling such groups. The article argues that denominating rebel groups as “terrorist” serves to justify certain approaches towards them, while categorizing them as “secessionist” may not be analytically useful and may also indicate a possible political bias by creating a social boundary that can be used to justify particular policies towards the designated “other”.

Keywords: Armed Opposition; Terrorism; Secessionism; Ethiopia; Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)