The Ogaden National Liberation Front ONLF, is a separatist rebel group fighting for the right to self-determination for Somalis in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. The ONLF, established in 1984, demands for the autonomy of this region and has claimed responsibility for several attacks since the beginning of 1994 aimed at Ethiopian forces in the area, which the government considers a region under the new federal system. The area of the Ogaden region stretches at least about 330,000 square kilometres and has over 7 million people, mainly from the Absame Somali tribe. The ONLF claims that Ethiopia is an occupying government, despite the Ogaden being represented in the Ethiopian federal government by groups including the opposition Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP). The ONLF is composed mainly of members of the Ogaden clan, specifically "the makaahiil tribe of the Ogaden".The armed wing of the ONLF is the Ogaden National Liberation Army (ONLA).
The ONLF was founded in 1984 by six people: Abdirahman Mahdi, the Chairman of the Western Somali Liberation Movement Youth Union, Mohamed Ismail Omar of the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF), Sheikh Ibrahim Abdalla Mohamed (WSLF), Abdi Ibrahim Ghehleh (WSLF-Trade Union), Abdirahman Yusuf Magan (WSLF) and Abdulahi Muhammed Sa'adi (WSLF). The ONLF is currently led by Chairman Mohammed Omar Osman, who was elected to the post at a 1998 national convention.
ONLF was formed after the defeat of Somalia in the 1977 Ogaden War. ONLF systematically recruited WSLF members and replaced WSLF in the Ogaden as Somalian support for the WSLF dwindled and finally ended in the late 1980s. By the time Mengistu regime fell, the ONLF had fully consolidated its position among ethnic Somalis in Ogaden, and joined the Transitional Government. The ONLF announced elections in December 1992 for District Five (what became the Somali Region) in Ethiopia, and won 80% of the seats of the local parliament. ONLF nominated Abdullahi Muhumed Sa'di for the Region's presidency, and other members for the vice-presidency and the Executive body; the regional parliament elected them in a majority vote. ONLF elected officials ruled the territory until the transitional government ended with the adoption of a new constitution. At that time the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front pushed for a new partner in the region, which led to the founding of the Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL) at Hurso in 1993. The ESDL then won the Somali seats in the 1995 general elections, pushing the ONLF out of power. The ONLF then accused the Ethiopian government of oppressing its members, while ONLF was accused of killing other Somali politicians and elders.