There are many injustices in the world, most caused by power and greed. Most conflicts around the world are also a result of these two. Some of the conflicts are well-known; others are hidden and completely forgotten, even though people have been murdered and tortured for decades simply for demanding their God-given rights of freedom.
One of these places is called Ogaden, or the Somali Region, which is located in South East Ethiopia. It is ethnically inhabited by the Somali people. They have lived in those lands for centuries, free and independent until the arrival of the Europeans on the shores of Africa. Britain was the major player in the colonizations of the Somali peninsula on the Horn of Africa. During this time, an African empire by the name of Abyssinia, later renamed Ethiopia, also claimed lands towards southeast by the support and arms of the Europeans.
Without going into history too much, let us just say that the Europeans left but the Abyssinians stayed. When the Brits left the Ogaden region, they ceded the last parts of the region to what is now Ethiopia, against the wishes of the local inhabitants. The region has been a conflict zone ever since. The Ethiopian regime is making it a military zone, completely blocking it from the rest of Ethiopia and the world. Rape, arbitrary arrest, cold blooded murder and starvation have become the norm of the day. The locals have to defend their livestock, their way of living, their culture and dignity.
The Ethiopian military has murdered two of my brothers, six cousins and countless numbers of relatives and friends.
Yes, I am passionate about the struggle of the people of Ogaden. And yes, I know there will be people who will say “you are biased” or “you are a supporter of anti-peace movements”. But my answer to anyone who thinks that way is simple. I am someone from the region who has been personally affected by the atrocities committed by the current ruling party, as well as previous regimes.
In 1977, my grandfather, his younger brother and five of their cousins were mutilated in their village as retaliation for the Ogaden War. At that time, my father fled the region due to the sorrow of the massacre of his family and out of fear for his life. He settled in the refugee camps of Somalia. This is where my siblings and I were born. Life was tough but safe until the civil war broke out in Somalia, turning the locals to refugees.
Even though nothing had changed, my father had to take his family back to his homeland, where they continuously were followed by the Ethiopian military. From 1991 until today, the Ethiopian military has murdered two of my brothers, six cousins and countless numbers of relatives and friends. They have jailed almost all of my family and displaced a whole generation of my family. We now live in four different continents.
For people who have grown up in a free and democratic society, it is hard to comprehend and understand the causes of conflicts that lead to the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people. However, we can all agree that nations and people need leadership. Without it, the land would fall to anarchy and lawlessness. But on the flip side of the coin, abuse of power leads to conflict and chaos. When someone abuses their power it leads to violation of people’s rights. The longing for power gets into the mind of the leaders, and then they become greedy for power and resources. Ogaden is a land that is blessed with natural resources and millions of livestock, but the Ethiopian regime is exporting food while the people are dying from hunger. The people are suffering from lack of water, food, education and development. Even now, one of the worst droughts that has ever hit the region, as well as a cholera outbreak, is seriously affecting the people. Hundreds of people have died and millions are at risk. Yet, no one is talking about it.
The military is shooting at the civilians who are peacefully protesting for justice in regions like Oromia and Amhara. In order to survive, the people in Ogaden have to turn a blind eye to their loved ones being killed in front of them. Much less could they speak about their rights. This brings me back to my statement at the start, power and greed. In Ogaden we have a so called regional president that has been put in place by the current Ethiopian regime. Power and greed has gotten to this individual to the point where he is willing to do anything for the Ethiopian military as long as they keep him in place of power. He and his Liyu police, a paramilitary that has the mandate do to whatever it takes to install fear in the people, has committed the worse kinds of human rights violations the region has ever seen. The regional president has degraded the people to the point where everyone is suspicious of each other and even fear their own shadows. Still, he is not satisfied with all that abuse he is committing against his own people. He also wants to silence people abroad, people who are the only voice for Ogaden. He has started a campaign in the diaspora where he is intimidating anyone that speaks about the atrocities to arrest their relatives in Ogaden. This way, he can make them stay silent or even support him against their own desires and judgment.
Power and greed can blind an individual. But what makes a dictator last as long as dictators often do, is the thousands and millions of people who support them. I urge all people that value humanity to speak up for the people of Ogaden. Speak up for those who have been forgotten! Those of you who are living in the diaspora can do so much by telling your personal stories or simply speaking up when you hear or see injustice in Ogaden. Get in contact with your local and national politicians and tell them about the atrocities. Get involved in human rights organizations and advocate for the rights your people. For the people in Ogaden who have been silenced – try and stand up for your rights. Record atrocities when you can, and get the truth out to the world. Do not do any regime-demanded injustice to each other. Instead, help each other out by standing up for each other.