Ogaden ( By Nuradin Jilani)

In the Ethiopian occupied Ogaden region, rape and murder is the order of the day. Hardly a day goes by without another addition to the horrors experienced by the Ogadens at the hands of their African colonizers. In there the Ethiopian troops are conducting a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing which the Human Rights Watch described in a report published in 2008 as amounting to Collective Punishment, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. In this scorched earth campaign, entire villages are razed to the ground and their inhabitants maimed; those who’re lucky to escape the carnage and flee to towns are rounded up, put in jails and subjected to cruel mediaeval torture methods. Many do not survive to tell tales of their horrific experience. Rape of young girls by Ethiopian troops is widespread. International media and NGOs are denied access to the region. People are summarily executed and their dead corpses displayed in town centers and denied burial. This is done to terrorize and frighten them into submission. As of late, there are factual reports of innocent civilians thrown into graves and buried alive, while others are burned alive. If one were to ask the Ogaden people today to compare (though comparisons of miseries are inherently immoral) their experience under successive black Ethiopian colonialism to that of the departed Europeans colonizers before them, no doubt the answer would be: “The black Ethiopian colonizers are more savage and inhuman than Europeans.”

Until recently, buildings worth the name, mosques, hospitals, and roads in Ogaden, were those that were built by Europeans, mostly the Italians during their short stay in the region. Our people have habit of saying, “The only thing we get from the Amharic speaking highlanders is death and destruction.”

That is the undeniable hard truth and the verdict of Ogadens about this nation that claims to have a history of resistance against European colonialism and a rich pan Africanist tradition – claims which do not stand to scrutiny. Ethiopia was spared of European colonialism because the rulers of that country collaborated with the colonizers, except briefly when they were made to fight on the side of the Allied Nations against the Italians in the European war of 1941. Somalis were not because they resisted and fought against the combined forces of European colonizers eversince the Whiteman set foot in their land; and when they were crushed by the superior weaponry of the invaders, they were placed under the rule of the collaborators. There is a rich history of Ethiopian kings writing letters to European powers in the ‘Scrabble for Africa’ and asking them to receive their share, as a price for collaboration, of the divided Somali lands. That is how the Ogaden ended up in their hands.

The present rulers of Ethiopia, the TPLF, are able to get away with all the murder and mayhem they’re committing in Ogaden and in Somalia – as did the previous rulers of Ethiopia in their time – mainly because they’re the darling of the West and have cleverly crafted a fictitious image of a nation facing threats to its ‘security’ from violent Islamic extremists in the Horn of Africa. The previous kings use to say “we are a Christian island in an Islamic sea” to win Western plaudits. Melez Zenawi has aligned his interests, like the Kings, Emperors, and other rules of Ethiopia before him, with those of the dominant Western powers of today.

In an article he wrote in 1978 titled “Which Way to the Sea, Please?”[i] the famous Somali writer Nurrudin Farah shows how the pretext changes, depending the circumstances of the time, but the agenda of every Ethiopia ruler – and hence the assured backing he gets from the Western powers of his time – stays the same: expansion, domination and oppression. That was the ‘idea of Ethiopia’, and still is even now, in the national consciousness of its elite.

However lately there are Ethiopians (mostly highlanders) who have become themselves victims when the crimes committed in their name in the faraway lands of the Somalis and other ethnic groups boomeranged on them. They want to establish in its place an Ethiopia of rule of law, equality and democracy, a country at peace with itself and its surroundings. The Tigrean TPLF promised also some like this before and had even written in its token constitution that every Ethiopian shall have equal rights – something that did not materialize in practice.

In conclusion, to rephrase Chinua Achebe, we in Ogaden stand in opposition to the murder and rape of our country by both whites and blacks alike and found them equally bitter.

However, we Ogadens are saying to those who want to bring about  a just and beautiful Ethiopia and replace the current Tigreyan tyranny, the same thing Mohamed Hassan  of Canadian Center for Ogaden Research and Advocacy (CONCORA) said in the Toronto gathering dubbed ‘Unity is Power’. We do so consciously knowing that we cannot easily forget the over hundred years of brutality and savagery we have been subjected to in the name of Ethiopia – the rape and murder of country.

However, ‘now is not the time’ to quarrel about the past and fight over who is a real Ethiopian or not. As the late Gambian born pan-African poet, Lenrie Peters, wrote in a poem in another context:

But now is not the time to

To lay wreaths

For yesterday’s crimes,

Night threatens

Time dissolves

And there is no acquaintance

With tomorrow…[ii]

To argue about the past will divide the voices of the future and prolong this tyranny we all want to topple. As the late Nigerian poet, Christopher Okigbo, wrote in a poem, Path of Thunder, celebrating the overthrow of the corrupted civilian government in 1966 and forewarning the dangers that lay ahead for the nation:

Alas! the elephant has fallen –

Hurrah for thunder –

But already the hunters are talking about pumpkins:

If they share the meat let them remember thunder.[iii]

Just as we intend to say Hurrah! when this regime falls, we must not become the hunters which Okigbo spoke about. Let us remember to share the meat equitably – that includes the option to exercise ‘the inalienable right’ to self-determination for those who are unsatisfied with their part of the national meat. As Mohamed Hassan said in Toronto, “We must know what we’re uniting for as we know what we’re uniting against.”  Unity of purpose.[iv]

[i]) Nurrudin Farah, “Which Way to the Sea, Please?” (1978)

[ii]) Lenrie Peters, “We have come home” (Satellites: Poems, 1967, p. 15)

[iii]) Christopher Okigbo by Sunday O. Anozie (1972, p.176)

[iv]) A lecture by Mohamed Hassan of the Canadian Center for Ogaden Research and Advocacy (CONCORA).


1 Comment

  1. Nuradin says:

    Waad kumahadsantihiin inaad maqaalkan daabacdaa, laakiin maxaad ukala reebteen maqaalka mudanayaal?

    Ma meehsaa idiin qaadi weeyday? Intan aad daabacdeen micno masameeyneyso hadaan lagu darin qaybta maqan.

    Waad mahadsantihiin.


ILAYS TV Shirwynihii JWXO maalinkii 1 aad Qaybtii u dambaysay