Ogaden: Occupied Front
The plight of the occupied Ogaden is a struggle drenched in blood and honor. A region located in the Horn of Africa, with Somalia to the east and the modern day Abyssinian Empire to the west. A nation of nomads and poets struggling for the right to self-determination for over a century. Closed to the outside world is a land blessed in resources yet its population languishing in unbearable conditions, due to Abyssinian aggression and shady geopolitics.
During the 15th century Abyssinian expansionists attempted to invade and annex the Ogaden, but where pushed back by forces led by Ahmed Gurey. Following Abyssinia’s failed incursion into the Ogaden, the Somali people in Ogaden where triumphant in defending there territorial sovereignty and dignity. Unfortunately the tide turned as European imperialists began there endeavors in the horn of Africa.
The notoriously infamous Berlin Conference in 1884 changed the continent of Africa forever. As European imperialists set their sights on the continent, all itching to get there claws on Africa, the Somali people on the continent faced the brunt of the onslaught. A major factor that contributed in the peril that faced the Ogaden at the time, was the collusion between Abyssinia and the British Empire. The bond between Britain and Menelik II of Abyssinia came at the expense of multiple ethnic groups in the region. An alliance that was more like a kinship based on the shared faith of Christianity. The similar religious beliefs of Britain and Abyssinia fueled there expansionist agenda, as they attempted to get a foothold in the Muslim dominated Horn of Africa. Once Abyssinia was armed to the teeth by their British cohorts, Menelik II was able to conquer the city of Harar, a city known as an Islamic oasis and hub for Islamic studies. This annextion of Harar in 1887 was unfortunately the beginning of Abyssinia’s occupation in Ogaden.
Eleven years later following the annexation and occupation of Harar. Representatives of the British Empire approached the elders and chiefs of the Ogaden and signed an agreement with them. The agreement entailed Britain’s support to uphold the territorial sovereignty of Ogaden and cease support for Abyssinia’s expansionist endeavors. Sad to say this pseudo agreement conjured up by Britain was nothing but a mere ploy. The following year in 1897, Britain signed an agreement with Abyssinia recognizing its occupation of Harar by deeming it legitimate. This heinous act was the stepping stones that paved the way for Abyssinia’s occupation of the Ogaden with the aid of Britain.
The end of world war two ushered in a new chapter for the globe. Some joyous, while some devastating, which can still be felt till this day and I can tell no better example than the occupied Ogaden. Following the defeat of Italy in world war two, the Italians where pushed out of the horn of Africa. The exodus of Italy from the region, paved the way for Britain to seize control of all Somali territories in the Horn of Africa, except for Djibouti. Finally on the 24th of September in 1948 Britain withdrew its treaty of protection that it signed with the chiefs and elders of Ogaden, subsequently giving Abyssinia control of the territory. This is despite the fact that prior to 1948 the Ogaden region as a whole has never been administered by Abyssinia let alone been under Abyssinian occupation.
The finalization of this cowardly act came on the 29th of November 1954 in which Britain officially seeded Ogaden to the Abyssinian settler colonial state. To the outside world many view the struggle of the Ogaden as a territorial dispute between the Somali Republic and imperial nation of Ethiopia. To the contrary its struggle for the right of self-determination for nearly 10 million Somalis that was stripped away from them by Britain. Over the decades countless battles have been between an occupying force and liberators that hail from our soil. Since Abyssinia’s illegal acquisition of the Ogaden, the region has been ravaged by wanton massacres of civilians, human rights violations and other crimes against humanity. Survivors who make it out of the Ogaden to refugee camps in neighboring Somalia and Kenya, tell of horrific tales that are unimaginable for the mind to grasp at times. Unfortunately these dreadful war crimes that I speak of continue to plague the region till this day.
With the formation of the Somali Republic in 1960, our brethren in mainland Somalia shed blood and sweat to assist there brothers in the Ogaden with the formation of the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) and notably the 1977 war. As an armed struggle was waged in the Ogaden, which was spearheaded by the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) which fought pitched battles with the Ethiopian occupiers for two decades. Yet in 1989 the Somali government led by Maxamed Siyaad Barre signed a ceasefire agreement with the Derg regime of Ethiopia. This ceasefire entailed that both sides would immediately cease funding and arming rebel groups. This led to the Somali government completely cutting off aide and arms to the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF) and sidelining the struggle.
The early 90’s ushered in an unpredictable period for Somalis in Ogaden as well as there brethren in the mainland following the collapse of the Somali state and subsequent civil war in 1991. A crucial factor that tends to be overlooked following the collapse of the Somali Republic in 1991 was the armed struggle being waged in the occupied Ogaden, which kept the Abyssinian expansionists at bay for the past quarter century. Menelik II, Haile Selassie, Mengistu and Meles Zenawi all yearned to reach the shores of Somalia and annex the longest coastline in Africa. The collapse of the Somali Republic in 1991 turned a powerhouse nation into a wounded lion. Post 91 Abyssinia has been determined to forcibly integrate Somalia into their artificial empire with full backing of the International Community (West). The reason which kept the fantasies of Abyssinia unobtainable was the armed resistance being waged in the occupied territories by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). A resistance movement formed in 1984 determined to carry the torch of previous generations. The Ethiopian regimes failed military endeavors in Ogaden which forced Abyssinia to succumb to defeat due to the heroic efforts of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) throughout the past two decades as the Somali Republic lay in ruins was a key factor that kept Ethiopia at bay prior to the US backed Ethiopian invasion of mainland Somalia in 2006. Many historians and analysts tend to coincidentally leave out how Ethiopia’s failed occupation of the Ogaden contributed to their inability to annex mainland Somalia following the collapse of the Somali state in 1991 which kept the vulnerable Somali Republic from being subdued by Abyssinia. As the people in the occupied Ogaden remain clutching the rifle with their right hand and dirt on their left hand, the quest for liberation will continue till victory is achieved God willing.
This was part one of a two part series dedicated to giving insight on the historical background of the occupied Ogaden and the armed struggle waged in the region since the 19th century. Part two will focus on the geopolitics of oil and gas in the region. Stay tuned
Written by Maxamed