Views of the Ogaden People under Ethiopian Colonialism
The Ogaden Somali territory lies between Oromia to the West, Afar land to the Northwest, the Republic of Djibouti to the north, Kenya to the south and The Somali Republic to the east. Somali agro-pastorals people with a single language, culture, and socio-economic structure inhabit the Ogaden territory.The Ogaden Somali people were free, independent and powerful until colonial powers from overseas came to Africa and started arming the Abyssinian chiefs in the north of present day Ethiopia. The Abyssinians using the arms and expertise provided by the colonialists captured Harar in 1884 and started raiding Ogaden Somali villages in that area, killing the men and selling women and children as slaves. The Ogaden Somalis resisted vehemently the encroachment of the Abyssinian expansionists and succeeded in halting their advance. Even though the Abyssinian military campaign to conquer the rest of the Somali territory failed, the colonial powers recognised its claim over the Ogaden Somaliland and signed treaties with them.
From 1886 to 1948, Abyssinia (renaming itself Ethiopia) waged a constant war of conquest against the Somalis but failed in gaining any further foothold in the Ogaden.
In 1935, Italy invaded Abyssinia and captured it along with the Ogaden and the territories of other nations in the area. Then the British defeated Italy in the Horn of Africa in 1941, and it administered the Ogaden for eight years until it transferred the first part of the Ogaden (Jigjiga area) to Ethiopia (the Abyssinians) for the first time. The next parts were transferred in 1954 and 1956. Thus, Ethiopia gained the control over the Ogaden without the knowledge or consent of the Ogaden Somalis. From that time onward, successive Ethiopian regimes mercilessly suppressed the Ogaden people and whenever the liberation movements seriously weakened and threatened Ethiopian colonialism, a foreign power directly intervened to re-establish its colonial rule over the Ogaden.
Ethiopia since the beginning of this century and up to now has been characterised by one nation using the powers of state to subjugate and exploit all the other nations within that artificial system. For almost one century, the Abyssinians are abusing the concept of sovereignty and statehood to deprive the rights of other people living under the rule of the artificial state of Ethiopia.
Ethiopia is a state founded on colonial doctrine and bases its rule on the use of force and emergency measures for oppressing the majority of the people and exploiting them. Ethiopia claims that African borders inherited from colonialism should be left intact and it inherited the Ogaden territory from the colonial powers. At the same time, Ethiopia is boasting to be the only African state that was never colonised. This means that Ethiopia has been a participating partner with the colonial powers that divided Africa among themselves but has never relinquished its colonial possessions.
To maintain such a colonial state, the rulers had to build a massive military machine and embark on forcefully maintaining one of the most vicious authoritarian rules in the third world. The resultant resistance from the people and the inevitable taxing of material and moral resources of the oppressing elite became Ethiopia Achilles’ hill and brought about the downfall of its successive regimes. The relentless resistance of the colonised nations and the consequential resource drainage brought down both the rules of Haille Sellassie and the military Junta of Mengistu.
THE CURRENT REGIME IN ETHIOPIA
After the fall of Mengistu Haille Mariam, EPRDF (Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front – the new name adopted by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front to camouflage it’s narrow ethnic base and rule Ethiopia, succeeded in capturing Addis Ababa with the help of Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF). Although most of the nations under Ethiopian colonial rule contributed to the weakening and downfall of the Ethiopian Politico- military machine, specially the Ogaden Somali people who not only played a major role but also involved their brethren across the border from the Somali Republic, TPLF captured the seat of power and succeeded in gaining international recognition.
At first the new Ethiopian rulers feeling weak and aware of the international climate and the demise of totalitarian regimes and the era of colonialism, forwarded a reasonable and plausible program for addressing the burning issue of Ethiopian colonialism and its solution through recognising and granting the right of nations to self-determination through a peaceful process.
EPRDF offered the charter program, which recognised the right of nations to self-determination up to cessation and stated that a transitional period of two years has to relapse before the nations could exercise that right. Thus, EPRDF recognised the colonial nature of Ethiopia in principle.
The Ogadenia National Liberation Front (ONLF), considering the burden of the long struggle of the Ogaden Somali people and cognisant of the priceless value of resolving the long standing conflict between Ethiopia and the Ogaden people through peaceful means decided to give chance to peace and avert a costly and unnecessary war.
But before the ink was dry, it became obvious to ONLF that EPRDF was only buying time and was lying the ground for keeping intact the colonial legacy it inherited and was scheming to attain the submission of the Ogaden Somalis to it colonial rule through demagogy and token democracy. EPRDF grossly miscalculated the gravity and depth of the Ogaden Ethiopian problem.
EPRDF blinded by its sudden and unexpected victory and the temporary absence of challenge and armed opposition from The Ogadenia National Liberation Front grossly miscalculated the severity and gravity of the conflict between the Ogaden people and Ethiopia and the unbending desire of the Ogaden Somalis to regain their usurped sovereignty and independence. EPRDF, forgetful of the bitter experience of its people under the previous rulers and despite its rhetoric of being committed to democracy and the rule of law and respecting the right of nations began the construction of its politico-military structures for maintaining the colonial empire of its predecessors.
Hence, all people concerned in ending the long-standing conflict lost an excellent opportunity and EPRDF planted the seeds of the next cycle of bloodshed and violence in the region. It started trying to divide the Ogaden Somali people and undermine the leading role of ONLF by creating pseudo-organisations based on tribal lines. At the same time, it spread its intelligence network and military garrisons all over the Ogaden. In early 1992, the EPRDF government masterminded the killing of several ONLF officials, including some members belonging to the Front’s Central Committee. Then EPRDF attacked the headquarters of ONLF in an effort to wipe it out but withdrew after sustaining high casualties and postponed its plans.
In spite of all the intrigues and harassment of EPRDF, ONLF and the Ogaden Somalis persisted in avoiding confrontation and continued rebuilding their political and administrative institutions. In September 1992, the Ogaden people went to the polls to cast their votes in a free and fair election, for the first time in their long history, to elect their district councils and representatives for the regional parliament. EPRDF strongly campaigned for its surrogate parties and members, but in a landslide victory, the ONLF won about 84% of the seats in the newly elected regional parliament.
In mid-1993, the regional government complained to the government in Addis Ababa about its flagrant interference in the day-to-day affairs of the Ogaden region, an act that contradicted the commitment to regional autonomy and devolution of power to the regions. EPRDF retaliated by freezing the regional budget, diverting international aid, discouraging international Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) to work in the Ogaden, as well as obstructing all initiatives, and projects deemed necessary for the development of the region. In late 1993, the Ethiopian security forces arrested the president, vice-president and secretary of the Regional Assembly, and it transferred them to prison in Addis Ababa. EPRDF released them after ten months without trail.
Finally, when EPRDF established its legitimacy as the government of Ethiopia in the eyes of the international community, and its military and economic resources was enhanced, it felt confident enough to mount a military campaign against the Ogaden Somalis at the end of the transitional period. Moreover, in order to get the raison d’être for its campaign of terror and subjugation of the Ogaden people, EPRDF dictated to ONLF and the Ogaden Somalis an unacceptable choice. In effect, EPRDF told the Ogaden Somalis to either endorse a compulsory constitution that would legalise the colonisation of the Ogaden people by Ethiopia and the participation in an election where their role would be to endorse EPRDF nominated candidates. EPRDF strategy was to deceive the Ogaden Somalis into sanctioning its colonial rule while at the same time eliminating themselves from the political structures it intended to maintain its hegemony over the nations and avert any future threat. In addition, if the Ogaden Somalis oppose what it proposed, to get the motive for declaring war on the Ogaden people and extricate itself from honouring the pledges it entered in its moment of weakness and maintain the Ethiopian colonial legacy.
The Ogaden people, after deliberating on the moves and intentions of EPRDF and understanding the choices EPRDF was presenting to them—either to relinquish what they had fought for so long or to be trodden upon, decided that it was unacceptable to succumb to the designs of EPRDF and forgo the quest for their self-determination and freedom. A quest the Ogaden people had shed so much blood for and suffered so much.
Therefore, on 28 January 1994, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, ONLF called for a referendum on self-determination and independence for the Ogaden. And on 22 February 1994, a cold-blood massacre took place in the town of Wardheer, where more than 81 unarmed civilians were killed by TPLF militias, who tried to kill or capture alive the chairman of the ONLF Mr. Ibrahim Abdalla Mohamed, who was addressing at that time a peaceful rally in the centre of the town.
In February 1994, the Regional Assembly passed a unanimous resolution in accordance with the Transitional Charter, demanding a referendum on self-determination and independence for the Ogaden people, under the auspices of international and regional bodies such as United Nations, Organization of African Unity, European Union, and other independent non-governmental organizations.
The EPRDF government in Addis Ababa reacted swiftly overthrowing and virtually disbanding all democratically elected institutions in the Ogaden, including the Regional Parliament. Like their predecessors, the president of the Regional Parliament, vice-president and several members of the parliament (MPs), were arrested and transferred to prison in Addis Ababa. Mass arrests and indiscriminate killings also took place.
On 17 April 1994, the Ethiopian government launched a large scale military offensive against ONLF positions and detained many suspected supporters of ONLF and on 28 April 1994, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, the then TPLF defence minister Saye Abraha claimed that all resistance movements in the Ogaden had been destroyed and stamped out. In a petition addressed to the president of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), the elders of the Ogaden asked the Ethiopian government to stop the military offensive against the Ogaden people, and seek a peaceful dialogue to resolve the conflict, instead of opting for a military solution, which complicates the already explosive situation.
In May 1994, the EPRDF government sponsored a new surrogate party called Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL), which is a version of People’s Democratic Organizations (PDO), which exists throughout Ethiopia within the EPRDF framework. The first congress of ESDL was held in Hurso under the patronage of the then prime minister of TGE Tamirat Layne (now eliminated also), who appointed a member of the ruling EPRDF coalition as a chairman of the new pro-government party.
On 25 January 1995, the EPRDF government hastily arranged a meeting in the town of Qabridaharre to convince the ONLF to participate in the upcoming federal and regional elections. The meeting, which was chaired by the then president Meles Zenawi (the current prime minister), failed when EPRDF refused to allow independent arbitrators to participate in a negotiated settlement. After that the ONLF, broke off all contacts with the EPRDF government, closed down its office in Addis Ababa and boycotted elections in 1995.
Since 20 April 1994, combatants of the ONLF and Ethiopian forces are fighting bloody battles and Ethiopia is vehemently denying the engagements with the liberation forces. Certainly, the ongoing struggle for self-determination and independence in the Ogaden continues to cause inhuman sufferings and are the basis of instability and tragedy in the Horn of Africa.
The 1991 Charter and the new Constitution, which Ethiopia espoused on 8 December 1994, guaranteed, as EPRDF claimed, the secession of a people if they are, “Convinced that their rights are abridged or abrogated”. In addition, the process of negating that the rights of the Ogaden Somali people is constantly abrogated proved too costly to the ruling junta in Addis Ababa.
The tyrannical regime in Ethiopia started a campaign of propaganda and public relation stunt in order to convince the international community of it democratic and liberal nature and to legitimise its continued presence in the Ogaden after the people requested to exercise their right to self determination and announced that it was conducting elections in the Ogaden. The Ogaden people thwarted its attempts but never the less it announced that the elections were held and its bogus surrogates had won the seats in the Ogaden. At the same time to further cloak its treachery, it formed its own ONLF party and unashamedly declared that ONLF had taken part in its sham elections. This was a clear indicator of its lack of confidence and inability to hide its failure to control the Ogaden.
From that time onwards, Ethiopia has been moulding and remoulding it sham representatives in the Ogaden, the so-called parties and Ogaden parliament, more than five times but up to this day Ethiopia is unable to manage the situation.
After failing to intimidate the Ogaden Somalis to go along with its colonial program, EPRDF has embarked on a war of attrition with ONLF and indiscriminate and inhuman tyranny against the Ogaden people. The Ethiopian army (EPRDF militia’s) killed, imprisoned or looted thousands of civilians. Hundreds of women were raped and for the first time in the history of the Ogaden people, male children were raped.
But the new Ethiopian colonial state headed by EPRDF has used every trick in the books of colonial strategy but failed to obliterate the armed national struggle of the Ogaden People and has been forced to occupy only the major towns and move in heavily armed convoys.
Then Ethiopia frantically resorted to human rights violations such as killings, imprisonments, forced conscription, exiling, intimidation and harassment, suppression of basic democratic rights which highlight the suffering of the peoples. The regime’s policies of systematic underdevelopment include economic sabotage, irresponsible plunder of resources with no regard to sustainability of the environmental, denial of education opportunities, socio-cultural dismantling and subjection to conflict-ridden political and administrative structures.
Moreover in the Ogaden, EPRDF forces and Tigrean dealers, who have been given concessions and game-licences by the Ethiopian government, which is dominated by ethnic Tigreans, are devastating the poor and the fragile ecological balance by widespread exploitation and depletion of forests for military purposes, firewood and charcoal. The rich wildlife, including big game, game birds, forests and water resources has all suffered irreparable damage in the Ogaden under the Ethiopian government.
After it became obvious to EPRDF that it could not destroy the national resistance of the people and that it was gaining momentum, EPRDF following the strategies of its predecessors attacked stateless Somalia and captured three regions. Ethiopia is intending to find scapegoats to blame for its failure in subduing the Ogaden people and their rejection of its colonial lust, divert attention and in a bid to maintain its credibility both inside and outside Ethiopia. Ethiopia is also actively engaged in sabotaging the reconciliation of the Somali people and building of a Somali state. At the same time, Ethiopia is hosting summits for the Somali leaders and is posing as a mentor to the Somali people and collecting funds from the UN on that issue.
The Ethiopian destabilisation plan is not limited to the Somali nation. Ethiopia attacked Eritrea on the pretext of retaking two Eritrean territories but in reality is intent in recapturing Eritrea and colonising it again, but Ethiopia received from Eritrea lessons it did not bargain for.
Ironically, the Ethiopian government, which violates the very basic human rights of all citizens in the empire-state of Ethiopia, including the Ogaden Somalis, and wages wars against its neighbours, poses itself as a champion of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa.
THE POSITION OF THE OGADEN SOMALIS
The Ogaden Somali people present the following summation of their views about Ethiopia:
- Ethiopia has colonised the Ogaden people and is viciously continuing that colonial legacy in spite of the change of regime in Addis Ababa and the Ogaden people categorically state that the present regime of EPRDF is not different from the rule of it predecessors in substance
- The Ogaden people are a sovereign nation, have the right to be masters of their destiny, and are intent on actualising that right.
- The Ogaden people will continue to struggle as long as the Ethiopian state remains intransigent to the rights and wishes and continue pursuing its inhuman oppressive policies.
- The Ogaden people will not participate in the bogus elections Ethiopia periodically conducts as a public relations exercise to beguile the local and international communities and hide its colonial and authoritarian nature, nor will they be take part in its colonial administrative structures.
- The Ogaden people calls upon the people of Ethiopia not to participate in the maniacal purges the current regime is perpetrating on the Ogaden people and become a party to the regime’s crime against humanity.
- The Ogaden people calls upon the current EPRDF regime ruling Ethiopia to desist from its current militaristic and aggressive attitude and accept a peaceful negotiated settlement of the current conflict between the Ogaden people and Ethiopia with the participation of third neutral parties from the international community.
APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
The Ogaden people inform the international community that the Ethiopian government is violating their basic human rights and is systematically exterminating them. Ethiopia is being encouraged to commit this genocide against the Ogaden people by the lack of the international community censure over its human Rights violations, and holding its rulers responsible for the gross human rights, abuses perpetrated by its Army and Security Forces in the Ogaden.
The Ogaden people appeal to the international to recognise the colonial nature of Ethiopia and its brutal repression of the Ogaden people and hold it accountable for its acts. Furthermore, Ethiopia is using international aid for military and political programs directed at oppressing the Ogaden Somalis and other nations under it s colonial rule and in its expansionist policies against its neighbours. Whenever its war coffers are depleted, Ethiopia appeals for international aid for natural disaster victims, at the same time Ethiopia has the means to attack two neighbouring states and maintain a huge colonial occupation army in the Ogaden, Oromia, Afar, Sidama and other territories of the oppressed nations. !