As many of you may have experienced, I have also been forcefully expelled from my own country by the same forces that are , as I am speaking now, killing, raping, maiming and displacing the citizens of that territory (Ogadenia). The ethnic targeting, indiscriminate killing and arbitrary arrest policy that the Somali Ogaden are subjected to for today, is the same policy that forced me to flee from my piece of land several decades ago.  In my early age, there were always stories about some kind of people named Ethiopians who always wanted to kill us.  Based on what I used to hear from elderly people, these people were not part of us. They came from faraway place for one reason only and that reason was just to kill us. According to my mental picture, these people were some kind of aliens from another planet who were nothing but a giant beast. And that analogy proved itself to me when I myself faced the Ethiopian cruelty.

ogaden warI will never forget the day that Ethiopian army backed by tanks and other military vehicles attacked my nomadic village, starting shooting everybody at sight while burning our whole village to the ground. I was too young to recall all of what happened in that day in details, but I vividly remember most of the horrible events that took place in that particular afternoon. It was around 3pm on a normal day, when we heard sounds of bullets coming from the southern direction, “bang, bang, and bang!”! I didn’t know what the sound was, but I immediately noticed people running to different directions, and all of sudden I saw my mom running towards me. I knew something strange was going on. She immediately grabbed my arm leading me and my younger sister to a nearby bush. I didn’t understand why people were terrified, but the only thing I could see was a chaotic scene where everybody was trying to run as fast as they could. I was too young to figure out what we were running from and why. My mom, may Allah put her soul in “Paradise” didn’t take a breath until she brought us to a safe place. The fear in her face was obvious and I have never seen my mom frightened like that before. One thing was for sure; she did not fear for her life, but she was concerned about our life as her children.  In the jungle, we met some terrorized villagers. As we vanished into a bush we felt a sense of security. We all started feeling the pain of the thorns that have been piercing in our bare feet. The expression on the faces of elders, construed that something bad had happened. News of fatality spread immediately like a fire among the community members; however, nobody knew who those victims were. Everybody worried about their loved ones. No sooner did my mom start searching for my older brother and my dad whom we did not have any idea of their whereabouts.   On top of killing three community members at the outskirts of the village, the attackers confiscated hundreds of animals such as goats, sheep and cows where they slaughtered most of them right away while they took the rest.

ogaden war1Around 8:00pm when the sounds of bullets died down, people started coming back to the village under the darkness of the night to see what was going on there. They were shocked to find out that their small huts were completely destroyed. Everybody began to salvage what was left over from their belongings. All houses were burned to the ground except one house that belonged to one of the respected Sheikhs in that community: Sheikh Abdi Sheikh Ahmed. Miraculously, Sheikh Abdi’s house was the only house standing there. Though Ethiopian soldiers tried to set the house on fire, for some reason their attempts became unsuccessful and they finally left it alone with some damage to the roof. On top of the damage to the roof they also perforated all appliances with their bayonets. Within 4 hours, the peaceful community became homeless and destitute. We didn’t know where to go or what to do since there were not humanitarian organizations such as Red Cross, MSF and Red Crescent. As the people were searching the remaining of their houses, somebody pressed a false alarm, “Run run, run they are coming” then people were in panic and they started running to the bush again. I don’t remember what happened from that time until the following morning. Next morning I was awaken by the same armed men who burned our huts. Many later, I was told by other family members that some good Samaritans gave us shelter, and they hid us from them. They came to harm us but our helpers refused to identify us and they instead insisted that we were from their clan. If this clan had not protected us from these barbaric forces, I don’t know what could have happened to us.

I couldn’t comprehend why these soldiers burned our little huts. What have we done wrong? Why are they doing this to us? I asked these questions to myself because I was astonished by the cruelty of these soldiers.  After several decades, Ogaden children are still going through the same hardship that I had gone through. They are also asking themselves the same question that I was asking myself in that day.  Can you imagine a 5 to 6 years old boy being chased by a tank or being shot at with a machine gun?

During my childhood, I didn’t have chance to go to school because my family lived in nomadic life style. However, there was always lack of schools in Ogaden and the majority of the population was and still is unlettered. The education problem was not limited to the countryside only, but even for those who were living in towns, did not have access to education. The whole country was under brutal regime which destroyed the people’s livelihood in every aspect. You can imagine how boring the life was to a five year old boy who didn’t have toys to play with or school to go to. A boy whose only fun he could get was chasing lizards and rabbits in a bush.  Unfortunately, the same occupation forces that disrupted and ruined my little world are the ones that are murdering, displacing and torturing unarmed civilians in the Ogaden territory now.

melesThe situation in Ogaden has never changed for the last 70 years. The only changes that have taken place in that area during that time was a power transfer from one tyrant to another. The Ogaden territory was, and has always been a war zone where occupying forces and local resistance faced off daily. The brutality of the Ethiopian security elements to the Ogaden civilians has been unexplainable in terms of cruelty. People suffered tremendously in the hands of this barbaric regime in Addis Ababa. Whoever comes to the power has made his first priority for Ogaden issue, not to develop and make that territory prosperous but to make the life of the people miserable. The sole purpose of all these tyrannical rulers was, and still is to bring the resistance to its knees.  They bring nothing to Ogaden people but more carnage, suppression and restrictions. Despite all military operations and harsh treatment against civilians, they have failed to reach their goals; instead, the movement has prevailed.

Ethiopians trespass the Ogadenland without our permission and they have been trying hard to force us to accept their colonial system and their way of life which the Somali Ogaden people had rejected many years ago.  The Ethiopian presence of this land has never been welcome by the Somali Ogaden people ever since they set foot on our country. Nonetheless, they keep pushing us to accept an illegitimate name such as “Ethiopian”, but the Somali Ogaden people never called themselves Ethiopians nor did they accept to be called Ethiopian. Ethiopian identity was imposed upon us without being asked whether we like it or not. While Ethiopian politicians are trying to convince the world that Ogadenians are Ethiopian by nationality, the Ethioipian society as a whole don’t consider Ogaden land as a part of Ethiopia. Consciously and subconsciously, the majority of them know that this piece of land is not theirs. In general, Ethiopian civilians never even bother to come and see what is going on in Ogaden.  What is happening in Ogaden doesn’t concern them.  They are totally indifferent to the human right violations and ethnic cleansing that are taking place in Ogaden.  Although every regime attempted to make settlements for farmers from the other parts of Ethiopia in Ogaden especially around the Godey area, no project has ever materialized yet because of objection of the locals.

NYH-ogadenman_992Even the armed individuals (Soldiers) hate to come to Ogadenland because they know how much people dislike them.  They know the hostility that they will face. Coming to Ogaden is a death sentence for most of them, and that is why some soldiers commit suicide when they find out that they are going to Ogaden because they are very much aware of what is waiting for them over there. Moreover, when soldiers are being prepared for deployment to Ogaden they are given all kind of misinformation about the Somali Ogaden people by their bosses. Their military commanders portray the Somali Ogaden people as wild and unfriendly people. They are programmed to do all kinds of nasty things against Somali Ogaden civilians and guarantee for full immunity from any backlash of their actions. They are told that they will not be accountable of their action.  They also advise their soldiers to be mindful of their safety and kill everyone before they get killed. This shows us how much these people abhor the community that they claim to be Ethiopians.  It is obvious that they care about the land but not the people, and that is exactly what it is.  The two populations the Ogadenians and the other Ethiopians are not compatible with one another and there is no way that they will ever live side by side peacefully.

So, two communities that don’t trust to one another cannot be held together by force. Sooner or later the hatred will result in open conflict and this is what is happening between Ogadenians and other Ethiopians (The highlanders) where they confront with each other. Divorce is the best way to go in order that each community may live in their own way peacefully. This time, this century, no community will accept humiliation or oppression from another one.  They cannot shovel their system or way of life down to our throats. No one have a right to hold a group of people or society as a hostage for ever.

By the way, I don’t think anybody can expect from me after being traumatized by the Ethiopian evil power to forget what they had done to me or forgive them.  Millions of Somali Ogadenians and me who have gone through the same hardship under Ethiopian colony and witnessed the atrocities committed by the unprofessional, inhumane Ethiopian army force against civilians will never allow Addis regime to rule Ogaden until the last drop of our blood. It is up to Woyane regime to choose between two: either leave the Ogaden land now or prepare for long bloody war.

Ali Yare.

 

 

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