The Standard – Nairobi

They are in the country seeking refuge after being hunted by their government day and night, but still they can’t get the peace they were seeking, writes
BONIFACE ONGERI

Life in the Dadaab refugee camp may look calm for most of the over 300,000 refugees, but not for the Ethiopian refugees.

The refugees, most of them from Ogaden region in Ethiopia, have been living with their antennas up following what they claim is selective elimination of some of their leaders who are seen as dangerous to the Ethiopian government.

When they escaped into Kenya, Ms Maryan Sulub Dubad thought that they had escaped persecution from military onslaught against members of the proscribed Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) in south eastern Ethiopia.

“We didn’t know that danger also lurks here where we thought we would be safe,” she laments. “We had sought political asylum in Kenya, but the same people we were fleeing from killed my husband inside Kenya.”

Her husband, Abdirahaman Abdullahi Muhumed was found murdered in Nairobi’s Industrial Area by people she claims are Ethiopian agents operating in Kenya.

“We used to receive strange people enquiring about his whereabouts. We reported this on several occasions to UNHCR and to police, but no action was taken until he was killed,” she says.

Muhumed, who was famously known as Tiba, was found with bullets pumped on his head and chest.

He was in the ONLF Central and Executive Committees in the last couple of years and was in-charge of the Interior and Security Coordination since 2010.

And on August 19, last year Abdirizak Mohamed Abdi was shot dead by a gunman in Ifo camp at around 11am.

Blinded by a bullet

He was registered as an Ogaden political refugee and was a member of the ONLF. Abdi, refugee number 261137, was standing in the Ifo market with some other refugees when he was shot.

Before his killing, unknown assailants had shot dead Kamas Dhabar Jibarte at Ifo refugee camp. Roble Musa, who was in the company of Jibarte during the attack, was blinded by a bullet.

Around the same time, Sheikh Mohammed Dubad was killed in Garissa town by suspected Ethiopian operatives.

“We fled death from Ethiopia but it is following us into Kenya,” laments Abdi Fatah, an Ethiopian refugee.

“Even as we are seated down here, they know what we are up to. The Ethiopian intelligence is all over the camps posing as refugees, but they are hunting down people they claim to be members of ONLF,” Fatah adds.

The Ogaden Refugee Community Chairman Ahmed Farah Mahamud says they have information that the Ethiopian intelligence is working in collaboration with pro government militia to eliminate some of the refugees in Kenya.

“The pro government militia, given the name of special police, carry out assassinations in exchange for amnesty and cash rewards,” he says.

“We have furnished the UNHCR with names of the operatives of the hit squad, but our people continue to be assassinated. Some of the militia pose as refugees but their work is to monitor the activities of the Ogaden and who they associate with. Whoever they suspect is kidnapped and their bodies are later found dumped,” he says.

Some of them have been forced to flee the refugee camp and are living in the city in the fear that Ethiopian agents are still after them.

Ideological conflicts

There have been reports of ideological conflicts between two groups of the Ogaden community, which the Ethiopian Government has allegedly used to its advantage.

The refugees say recently the Ethiopian government signed a peace deal with one group, which was also fighting the government in the Ogaden region.

Mahamud says the differences of ideology have spilled into Kenya as Ethiopian government unleashes one group to eliminate suspected ONLF members who have sought refuge in Kenya.

“The agents have at least three bases near the border of Kenya to carry out any necessary assassination. One base borders the Kenya town of Moyale and another one is in Sufka neighbouring Mandera. The closeness to Kenya is for ease of operation. The third base is inside Ras Kamboni on the Kenya-Somalia border,” Mahmud says.

“We have been reporting threats and possible attacks against the Ethiopian refugees or asylum seekers to UNHCR and its partners on refugee affairs since 2009, but the killings have continued,” he tells UnderWorld.

Recently, Kenyan clerics came out to claim that ONLF members are in the country and in particular Garissa County. The religious leaders said the ONLF presence had jeopardised their safety.

The Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Garissa Branch Chairman Sheikh Hassa Ammey said some people they suspect were Ethiopian intelligence and members of the breakaway group were hunting down the suspected ONLF members and their alleged sympathisers in the county.

“Among those being hunted for elimination are local prominent clergymen who they accuse of harbouring the ONLF,” he said at a press conference.

Government’s denial

But North Eastern PC James ole Seriani denied the presence of ONLF members in Garissa County or anywhere in the province.

However, he said investigations are ongoing to establish whether the killings of clergymen in the recent past have anything to do with the alleged Ethiopian operatives hunting down dissidents in Kenya.

Kenya is currently hosting close to 100,000 refugees from Ogaden region in Ethiopia.

Seriani accused a section of residents of taking sides in the foreign conflict, which could brew problems.

“What we have told the residents is that they should not take sides with a war too far away they have nothing to do with,” the PC said. “If there is any involvement from Kenyan side, it should be to facilitate peace and find a solution and not taking sides.”

The Standard

ONA.

 

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