By Mohamud Ahmed
The Ogaden conflict with Ethiopia dates back to early centuries of A. D. according to Saadia TOUVAL; “as far as Horn of Africa is concerned, there is evidence that in the third century A.D. an Ethiopian king conquered much of the Ogaden, but his possession of the region was apparently short-lived”. Besides, the conflict was consisted religious fanaticism, imperial expansion, colonialism, discrimination, repression, or hostile neighbors among Christian Amhara of Abyssinia/Ethiopia and Muslim Coastal Sultanates/Emirates or the Ifat Sultanate, which Somalis were among the groups. The conflict always summons attention of any rivalries of this universe to intervene or take aside of its concern, probably, Ogaden being a portion of the vital region – the Horn of Africa.
Among the rivals; Greek/Portuguese Versus Turks, Europe’s race to discovery or the then-colonization, Rivals of WWI and WWII, Rivals of Cold War, West Vs East Blocs, or the latest phenomenon of the “War on Terror or Global Jihad” though all forces except that of Turkey of the 16th century, had lent a hand with Ethiopia. Leaving the history itself, Ogaden is currently facing harshly managed securitized-environment as the region faces nearly two decades of armed conflict among ONLF forces and Ethiopian military with its affiliated militias which led to trade blockade, movement restrictions, severe human rights and humanitarian conditions since 2007, amid global economic crisis with peak inflations to livelihood managed to make loud cry by significant populations of the free World.
Besides, despite being in the 21st century and the World knows better and sooner to any event of impunity or development regardless of its location in the Universe, the Ogaden people are executed, abused and persecuted through fully organized manner while they are in the first, second or even fourth country of asylum. Even, if not mentioning what Ethiopia’s satellite administrations of Northern Somalia with Ethiopian security forces particularly in the name of “War on Terror” had employed against the Ogaden people, the February 2011 “hunting mission” in Djibouti and/or the February/June assassinations in Kenya, are enough that Ogaden people are terrorized not only in domestic aspect but also to regional dimensions.
Fortunately, though the independence of South Sudan offers greater hope for the Ogaden people, it is the time to intervene and support the Ogaden Cause by the International Community particularly those contributing to the current crisis as they fully aide to the incumbent regime of Meles Zenawi. Among the contributors are the US/Western World and China with Asian Oil corporations as the former offers billions of dollars per year through aid, and legacy to delegate Ethiopia do beyond-border missions as humanity amid Addis Ababa routinely denied or on purpose abused fundamental rights to its citizens, leave alone “WFP staffers or Swedes journalists”.
While the latter group, through its so-called “non-interference policy” contributes billions of dollars to Ethiopia through loan but contrary to its claims, forces millions of Ogaden civilians to be intervened to their way of life as they are abused, executed, sanctioned, displaced and persecuted because of “their demand for security assurances from the employer”, to explore the natural resources of the Ogaden.
Current Status of Ogaden.
The Somali ethnics in the Ogaden region had suffered more as they are almost a century of colonization, subjugation, discrimination, corruption and manipulation, and marginalization. Their suffering is just something sensible to many of today’s world as almost every country of the free world was once colonized, subjugated and paid a lot to the independence it lives with.
Though the Ogaden had experienced very high profile confrontations not only the native people versus the aliens, but also among the aliens themselves such as Italy Vs Abyssinia, Italy Vs Britain, the proxies of the Cold War – the Ogaden War 1977/8, the crisis committed in the last twenty years are overloaded than what happened throughout hundred years of subjugation. The reasons for this could be more, but among them, are the modern settlement and the population growth where the perpetrator can abuse and collectively punish a significant unarmed population within a short period with little material input.
From 1992 to 1997, the region had faced serious political chaos through clannish and religious fanaticism mostly affiliated by the TPLF and its personal or group proxies in the region to undermine the nearly century old struggle for self-determination and freedom. Furthermore, from 1994 to 1997, the region experienced harsh political milieu with extensive military confrontation and insurgency among the Ogaden rebels and TPLF forces with external assistance amid TPLF was waging a disguise war against its former proxies – the Al-Itahad Al-Islam.
From 2006, when TPLF felt threatened to its survival and failed its attempts to overcome ONLF since 1994, had willfully cracked down the overall system of livelihood such as the free movement, trade, livestock herding, and access to public services. Extra-judicial killing, arbitrary detention, manipulated judiciary, political humiliation, burning villages, gang rapes, torture, robbery, property confiscation, forceful relocation and displacement become a common consumption of the Ogaden people. There has been no one having immunity or protection from the said evil acts let him/her be a father, mother, child, grand-grandmother, civil servant, member of parliament or the ruling party, traditional or religious leader, minor or majority clan, or any other structure in Ogaden.
Only one controversial man – named as Abdi Mohamud Omar who is just young man with unambiguous personal relations with Ethiopian highland security forces has enjoyed a full immunity as he fully contributed to the status quo from 2005 to 2011. Furthermore, throughout twenty years of ongoing crisis both in terms of civilian and military aspects in Ogaden, yet none of the EPRDF or TPLF officers/ personals had been prosecuted to any misbehaving act to the legal systems and orders.
Not only the Ogaden public is subject to brutality and inhumanity from TPLF’s sophisticated system, but also international bodies to humanitarian dealings, media outlets, and diplomatic dignitaries from the international Community are due victims if they attempt any moving of theirs without the consent of the security forces in the region. Amid Ogaden is facing such restrictions, brutality and the severe drought and famines, TPLF is playing some tricky games as it is claiming that it reaches Peace-agreement deals with the main actor in the region – the ONLF. On the expense of the Ogaden people, TPLF is making its own funny stories to deter or argue against the internationally known of the deteriorating situation of Ogaden from its ill-thought counter-insurgency campaign.
These TPLF actions show how it is not serious about democracy, good governance, transparency, justice and peace despite being donated or funded billions of dollars to promote them by the West and affiliate financial firms – the World Bank and IMF. Not only West as governments or financial institutions is funding the Ogaden crisis through aid and development, but also the oil industries of West and East are merely provocations to the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity to the Ogaden.
Summarily, Ogaden having historically agreed subjugation and marginalization is, in the meantime, subject to political manipulation, oppression and brutality, blockade and economic embargo, natural resources misuse and illegal exploitation, drought and famine, and sealing off from the wider world. The TPLF regime of Addis Ababa, and its juniors and proxies in Ogaden – Jigjiga, the current regional capital, employ all of these evil exploitations.
Predictably, any administration in the Horn of Africa unless it is in a “state of war against TPLF” like Asmara, has to take part to Addis Ababa’s War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity, Genocide or the Collective Punishment of the Ogaden people like the Djibouti, Hargaisa, Garowe or Transitional Federal Government cabinet members and associates. Otherwise, faces hasty backlash from Ethiopia as happened to Kenya.
For instance, Kenya had relatively hesitated to show full cooperation to Ethiopia’s demands, and as result of that, experienced brutal frontiers in the Northern and North-Eastern Provinces where Turkana Communities were massacred and well-organized proxies intercepted backing activities of the Prof. Gandi Administration by Kenya respectively. Kenya appears overpowered as Ogaden activists and ONLF official were murdered in 2011 while being in the Kenyan soil, and yet no one was held accountable or even as a suspect of the acts by the Kenyan authorities though Ogaden refugees apprehended a suspect to the last killing of August 19, 2011.
On the other hand, when administrations cooperate with Addis Ababa’s demands, they are undermining their authority or autonomy, which leads that they lose confidence of their threshold populations, and as a result, could face internal chaos and turmoil as happened to Garowe government in 2009. The AbdiRahman Farole government of Punt Land administration with explicit interfering of Ethiopian security forces in the name of “War-on-Terror” had captured five men of Ogaden region from their way of Yemen, in Bosaaso.
The men were directly interrogated by Ethiopian security who took ahead one of the detainees – an ONLF Central Committee member to Addis Ababa, one died on spot, and the other three were released after months of detention amid public anger dominated throughout the Horn. The annoyance was not only from Punt Land’s public but also from the US Congressman Hon. Donald Payne who frequently denounced the act. From that incident, the Farole government becomes infamous followed by internal turmoil and insecurity until chaos erupted from Galka’ayo-Bosaaso-Garowe, which made gloomier to the already unpopular administration because of piracy and corruption.
Therefore, in the coming months or years, the Ogaden people are in away to be punished or hunted by all actors in the Horn as Addis Ababa with its full sources including the necessary tools of IGAD, AU, NEPAD, UN, IMF, World Bank, DAG, G-20, G-8, War on Terror, China, India, Oil Companies and the status of “as the Key ally for the West or US”, will employ its own strategies to incriminate others in the Horn. Then, if Ogaden people become hunted as expected, it is obvious that results will not be as Addis Ababa calculated. Rather than, it will lead to a route where insurgency groups and unpopular governments fight inside their respective territories, as the impunity will not be only limited to the Ogaden refugees.
For instance, if Kenya fails to prosecute those committed the persecution against the Ogaden refugees inside its sovereign state; they will pursue to assassinate its own citizens who has sympathy for the Ogaden Struggle. This should lead that Kenyan sympathizers for the Ogaden issue to defend themselves and Kenya as government will lose its integrity from the Kenyan public, and no one knows where route ends. The same might happen for every other state in the Horn, which manipulates its system of governance and justice.
In relation with that, Somali speaking populations are dominant inhabitants or bona fide citizens of Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya who at least once fought or showed greater sympathy for the Ogaden struggle through different means such as the Somali irredentism, anti-European colonization or anti-Abyssinian domination and expansion.
Moreover, not only Somali clans in Somalia are represented in Ogaden as commented by the US government’s former Ambassador to Ethiopia – Ambassador Yamamota as shown the leaked cables by Wiki Leaks, but also every main Somali clans of Djibouti and Kenya are originated from Ogaden and have there their esteemed traditional leadership. Therefore, if TPLF is dreaming that it can isolate the Ogaden people from the surrounding environment by force and violence, history and reality has taught many oppressors that it did not work as planned.
Ogaden owning unambiguous historical grievances committed by the colonial powers of British, Italy, and Abyssinia, had also suffered from the Cold War rivals, as it was the flash point of the competing forces’ playfield – Ogaden War 1977/8. Ogaden grievances continued until today on a new name of Ethiopia supported by what is known as the International Community where the said oppressor has a lot to say, gain and sympathize to keep on suppressing the Ogaden people, and the respective communities of the Horn of Africa.
The Ogaden is experiencing almost two-decades-old insurgency between Ogaden rebels and the Africa’s mightiest military - the Ethiopian military supported by both of the world’s super power countries; US and China. The Ogaden conflict, which is among the results of States’ failure to govern properly their so-called territorial integrity, also contained religious fanaticism, discrimination against lowland Cushitic Moslem Somalis from highland Semitic Orthodox Christian, imperial expansion and any form of suppression to a minority group. Ogaden Cause also witnessed inter-clan or intra-community animosity mostly perpetuated by the patrimonial practice employed by successive Ethiopian regimes, or contest to scarcely managed and distributed wealth in the region.
Moreover, the God-given assets in Ogaden including minerals, natural gas and oil had seriously exacerbated by the already deteriorated situation of the Ogaden as multinational companies attempt to scramble amid Ogaden experiences almost century old subjugation. In the last couple of years, as the regime in Addis Ababa determined to fulfill the dreams of scrambling Ogaden resources, had employed additional steps to eliminate the Ogaden public through brutal counter-insurgency campaign not only in domestic aspect but also to a regional dimension, the Horn of Africa.
However, The years of 1992 to 1994 being too popular for the Ogaden people as they were, since Africa’s scramble by foreign forces including the Black Colonizers (Abyssinia) in late of 19th century, first time that Ogaden people were asked or given chance to relatively run their wishes independently, though short-lived. In relation with that, ONLF went back to the armed-struggle of 1994 to fight for the rights of the people such as the “self-determination or the right to secede” which was assured in the transitional charter of the 1992 but slammed by the TPLF. Since then, the people of the Ogaden remained under EPRDFs’ Ethiopia, being repressed and marginalized as their will lacked someone to respect. So that, though the International Community and the ONLF itself recognizes that Ogaden is a portion of what today known as Ethiopia and run by TPLF, it is the responsibility of the said bodies to guarantee that “political, social and economic spirits” be addressed genuinely sooner to evade the continuity of the oppressed or denied spirits.
Having said that, the solution for the Ogaden crisis is not in the hands of TPLF, if it was not so, the suffering would not have been going on until today. On the other hand, TPLF is Tigray-centered ethnic movement whose main goal was to liberate the Tigray people from centuries-old Amhara domination though western countries supported and influenced them to come on power amid it is asked to maintain stable Ethiopia. Predictably, TPLF owning Tigray-minded vision utilized the given-wealthy by the western countries and their affiliate financial firms (IMF, World Bank, DAG) to grip on power itself while excluding any other ethnic or group who attempts to claim beyond TPLF’s allocation.
Finally and obviously, TPLF cares and mandates itself based on Tigray people, and when necessary makes in use the term “Ethiopia” to meet and fulfill the demands or future goals of its genuine population – the Tigray. As an unfortunate for the TPLF, though they manage to oppress every other ethnic that struggles to attain its fundamental rights, they are facing a future of burden. If TPLF insists to grip on power itself through brutality, it is becoming that every upcoming month or year, is a loss of additional human lives, which could add the potential revenges by the oppressed ethnics in the future.
In addition, the solution of the Ogaden is not in the hands of the West, or any other bloc of this world, rather than, it is in the hands of the Somalis in Ogaden and their political monument – the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Therefore, a chance should be given to them, to address the issues genuinely.
At last, Ogaden is the road to incriminate Horn governments or administrations along with Addis Ababa, which could lead to unpopularity at home, then follows internal chaos and turmoil. Otherwise, Ogaden Suffering being addressed means Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi does not need to make in use the above-mentioned tools to terrorize the Ogaden people and to lead the Horn to the route of crimes against the Ogaden people, and as a result, unpopularity and internal chaos to be seen –then, Undo is the Way Forward!
Political Refugee and Civil Society Activist from Ogaden region
August 27, 2011