Faisal Roble
August 08, 2011

As customary, Wardheernews every now and then treats its readers with scholarly works on a myriad of topics. I read Tibebe Eshete’s scholarly article “The Root Causes of the Ogaden Problem – 1942-1960” with immense interest.

At the outset, I must admit that this subject matter has particular import for me personally, lest my own late father, Abdi Roble, and indeed many of his extended family members, were both the leaders and foot soldiers for the two most important historical wars of resistances that Mr. Tibebe’s piece analysis – the Geri revolts in 1941-942 and 1948-57.

Although Tibebe’s piece skillfully used primary Ethiopian sources and unearthed a lot of archival historical facts about the conflict in the Somali Ogeden region during the tumultuous periods of the 1940s through the 1960s, which is an effort deserving recognition, there are several misrepresentations of said facts. One concept that Tibebe invoked – the Sadaqo-based sharing in the spirit of good neighborliness – is indeed an Islamic tradition which needs to be nurtured in the future to promote good relationship between Christians and Muslims in the Horn of Africa region. It is quite another matter to reduce the entire Somali resistance against Abyssinian occupation to the sadaqo concept. Also, uncritically assigning some administrative missteps by British officers in the Reserved Area in the 1940s as the cause célèbre of the Somali revolt in the region is at best an oblivious posturing to history and at worst a paternalistic attitude towards a colonial complex matter.

When investigating conflicts and revolts, scholars must go a bit deeper into history and raise some critical questions: why is that Somali resistance to Ethiopia so resilient? Why, after so many wars and famines, do Somalis still show remarkable resilience to secure their security and social justice? As shown in the following cursory review of past history, we may try to shed light as to the most immediate and underplaying causes of the Somali Ogaden revolt in the 1940s up until 1960.

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