Who are Ogadens?

(Click image for source)

At the beginning of a new year, many of us find ourselves pondering on the previous year’s events, achievements and developments. We have the tendency to expect that the pros outweighed the cons. However, looking back into 2014, there was so much bloodshed, so many innocents lost, homes destroyed and millions displaced that in light of the bad it is hard to see the good.

Today, with a heavy heart, I introduce you to my people. The people of the Ogaden, are Somalis with a single language, culture and religion. Their land is illegally occupied by Ethiopia and lies between the Republic of Djibouti, the Somali Republic and Kenya.

I am the daughter of a prominent figure in the Ogaden community. However, I found myself not knowing much about our history and our current situation. One of the reasons for this could have been my parents not having sat me down to drill the necessary information into my head. Regardless of this, I started to become increasingly curious. They say that to solve a problem, you must first understand the situation. Thus, I ask you to open your mind and to look into the situation of these people. As we enter the New Year, their living conditions, status and situation has still not changed for the past hundred years.

Let me give you a brief insight into the history of the Ogaden region. In 1884, the Abyssinians captured Harar and began raiding the Ogaden Somali villages in this area, causing mass destruction. They killed the men and sold the women and children as slaves. All made possible by the arms and expertise of the colonialists.
In 1886 to 1948, due to resistance, Abyssinia renaming itself ‘Ethiopia’, failed in gaining any further foothold in the Ogaden. None-the-less it continued its war of conquest against the Somalis.

During this time period, Ethiopia was invaded and captured by Italy in 1935, along with the Ogaden. Following the Italian occupation, the British defeated the Italians in the Horn of Africa in 1941. The British governed the Ogaden for eight years until they transferred the first region belonging to the Ogaden, Jigjiga, to the Ethiopians. A decade passed, and then in 1954 and 1956 more regions were transferred. It was then that Ethiopia finally gained control over the Ogaden without the knowledge or consent of the Ogaden Somalis.
Since 1984 the Ogaden National Liberation Front has been fighting for recognition and taken on the role of representation of the Ogaden people. The ONLF’s sole purpose has been to resolve the longstanding conflict with Ethiopia through peaceful means, even though the Ethiopian government hasn’t always reciprocated this.
You may find yourself wondering, how all of this conflict affected the Ogaden Somalis. There are some that escaped the region, only to find themselves in the world’s largest refugee camp. With a population of almost 500,000 in its five sites, Dadaab Refugee Camp collectively forms the largest temporary settlement in the world.

The sight of the Dabdaab in Kenya is incomprehensible. Spending an hour there would be torturous, let alone living there. This camp is the direct result of mass torture, exile and blatant violation of basic human rights inflicted by the same perpetrator; Ethiopia. The same country that has labeled itself as the Champion of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa.

The cries from the camp are of rape, horrific torture methods, widows and orphans. However, the most heartbreaking cries of the Ogaden people are directed to the international community. Why has their case been overlooked? Why has Ethiopia been allowed to reign over them for so long?
Do they not count as human beings with the rights to representation and the right to live in their land peacefully, free from fear and discrimination?

The tyrannical regime in Ethiopia has resorted to a propaganda campaign and public relation stunts in order to convince the international community of it democratic nature just so its continued presence in the Ogaden can be legitimised, even after the people requested to exercise their right to self determination.

(Click image for source)

Ethiopia continually mocks the meaning of democracy by announcing over and over that it is conducting elections in the Ogaden. Each time, the Ogaden people have boycotted the sham elections. This did not stop Ethiopia announcing that the elections were successfully held and saying that their bogus surrogates had won the seats in the Ogaden.

With the creation of the ‘special police’ known as Liyu police, in 2007, the situation of the people has become dire. There have been countless reports of the supposed ‘law enforcers’ raping, abusing, killing and taking part in looting across the Somali region. 

After failing to intimidate the Ogaden Somalis into going along with their colonial program and set up elections, Ethiopia has frantically resorted to human rights violations. Including imprisonments, mass rape, forced testimonies, intimidation, harassment, expelling and killings. Hundreds of women were raped and for the first time in the history of the Ogaden people, there are many reports of male children being raped.  

Ironically, the Ethiopian government poses itself as a champion of Democracy and Human Rights in Africa. Although, they violate the very basic human rights of all citizens, including the Ogaden Somalis, Oromia, Afar, Sidama and other territories. Furthermore, the Ethiopian regime constantly wages wars of aggression against its neighbours. The suffering of the people, in Ogaden and all parts of Ethiopia clearly highlights the suppression of basic democratic rights by the Ethiopian regime.

Even though I spent the majority of my life in London, the fact that I am from such a destitute nation saddens me. The same people I share a language, religion, culture and heritage with live under conditions that even animals are not subject to and it breaks my heart. The fact that the powers that put them there choose to ignore them is even worse and it infuriates me.

Let me leave you with this, Allah the almighty addresses humankind: “say: never will we be struck except by what Allah has decreed for us; he is our protector. And upon Allah let the believers rely” (juz 10, page 195, ayah 9:51)

Yes, only Allah’s decree is what stands. However, he also said “he will not change the situation of a people until they change themselves”. Thus, humankind not only conducts itself in great error but also has no hope of a change unless we strive for better and restore our humanity. The poor and ill should be treated and given their compensation, the evildoers and dictators should be bought to trial and every human being, animal and plant’s life should be treated with the utmost respect.

Allah’s noble messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) taught us that change for the better is expected from us all and we should strive to change whatever is in our power. Thus in a humble attempt, I aim to advocate for the people of this land, who have no ambassador, no voice and no platform to air their mistreatment. I sincerely hope I have brought you some insight and you have been successfully informed of their plight.

By Anonymous member of the Ogaden community of London 
Co-writer Deega Jama (Copywriter Intern)


  1. Great article indeed! May our somali brothers be liberated from the oppression that they are under. This is a side note but isn't it better to call the region 'somali galbeed' as their are many different somali clans that live there although the Ogaden tribe is a majority? My intention is not to divert the plight of our brothers, just wanted to make a gentle point. Its a very important region when it comes to unifying somalis as it is one of the five great regions that make up the "Greater Somalia".

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