Ogaden: Refugees’ Asylum Space Attacked!

In mid of the first quarter of the 21st century, Ogaden conflict incinerates its third century as it started from late of 19th century. Moreover, this conflict has been driven by Ethiopian rulers’ provocative imperial expansion as a means of defeating against “a perceived threat from eastern lowlands”. However, Ethiopian rulers were fully dependent on European and the allied powers of 19th century and up to date.

Apart from the within-regional conflicts, Ogaden has been also suffering from Africa’s scramble or colonization, World Wars I & II, the Cold War and today’s Global Jihadism or Counter-Terrorism campaign. From those confrontations or their aftermath crises, refugees or asylum seekers have been the most expected or recognizable outcome. However, because of Ethiopian rulers’ sympathy from victorious powers, Ogaden refugees have not been treated as they deserved.

Nonetheless, refugees remain fleeing or escaping from the today’s ongoing struggle between Ethiopian government and ONLF – is a separatist movement established one hundred years from the Berlin Conference of 1884. Moreover, though exiled Ogaden advocates have been lobbying since 1990s for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers in the hosting countries, their suffering while in Horn of Africa has been well recorded.

Furthermore, those abuses had been skyrocketing since Ethiopian government had invaded Somalia in 2006 and fully controlled the Horn of Africa region. From Ogaden region’s immediate neighbors, only Kenya became the save haven for Ogaden refugees. However, the said haven (Kenya) came under dominance since Ethiopian regime, from 2010, began applying its refugee-hunting exercise as daylight assassinations or murdering had been carried out. Key figures of Ogaden community or ONLF officials were murdered in 2011 while in Kenyan territory – namely the Dadaab refugee camps and Nairobi.

The assassinations, illegal extraditions, kidnappings, threatening, intimidations, harassments, and many other abuses have been employed against Ogaden refugees in Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya.

Regional developments provoke crises;

From such crises, Ogaden refugees led by ONLF advocates have set up Ogaden Refugees Committee1 (ORC) – a body that advocates and represents for Ogaden refugees or asylum seekers. Though ORC has achieved certain level of progress for the Ogaden cause within a year, Ogaden refugees weren’t assured to remain unharmed.

In addition to that, since new political or military developments emerged from Kenya’s role in southern Somalia, refugees had suffered further from the negative aspects of the said developments. From 2012, both urban and camp refugees had suffered as they were targeted by both the alleged destabilizing forces and victims of the destabilizing activities.

Moreover, despite claiming to play stabilizing role as partner for Kenya, ORC understands that Ethiopian regime contributes those destabilizing activities. And, we also knew, though limited, Jubaland regions were the only save haven for Ogaden refugees in Somalia because of informal protection services. In relation with that, we recognize that Ethiopian regime is increasingly involved into southern Somalia or Jubaland regions crises where initially seen as Kenya’s intervention area. Moreover, Somaliland authorities had illegally extradited Ogaden refugees to Ethiopia on May 20s 2013.

Therefore, neither Mogadishu-based Federal government nor UNHCR offers full protection services for Ogaden refugees in Somalia currently. As a conclusion, we are deeply worried and concerned about:

  • The refugees’ protection crises in Kenya; the actual and perceived involvement of Ethiopian government to the menace, since 2011;
  • Ethiopian regime’s dominance role in Somalia through both political and military means despite the latter was/is Ogaden refugees’ immediate asylum reach or corridor of seeking asylum to other countries;

Therefore, the year 2013 seems another turning point for Ogaden refugees as Ethiopian authorities who are taking their geo-political advantage, are going to manipulate the Ogaden refugees’ asylum space.

Protection for those in need!!

Ahmed Farah Mohamud

Chairperson – Ogaden Refugees Committee (ORC)


1 – Based in Nairobi, the ORC, since it’s set up of July 24, 2011, has been working on behalf of Ogaden refugees and asylum seekers through advocacy and publications. To follow Mr. Mohamud, please click the links below:




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