The fate of the Somali/Ogaden region in Ethiopia after 57 years of untold atrocities. Farah Kolley

Dear Secretary,

As undeniably known by those interested in knowing it, the Somali/Ogaden struggle for self-determination began right after the allied powers notably the British persuaded by the United States handed the region over to then the Ethiopian ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie in mid 1950s against their will. Since then, like the newest nation being born in South Sudan that has just unshackled from the tyranny rule of the Arabinised in North, after more than five decades of an underdog, guerrilla struggle and two million lives lost. The fall start, the hit and run, and sometimes full-fledged rebellion coupled with disproportionate military responses by the Ethiopian governments to keep the Ogaden region from splitting off, continues with no end in sight in the absence of international attention.       

And as a result of that, this region has seen untold suffering and remains one of the poorest and least developed places on earth, despite substantial unexplored oil reserves and agricultural resources. Just to mention a few of the least preventable problems that permanently exist in this region: a girl in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia is three times as likely to die in childbirth as to become literate, where three-quarters of the population in the region are illiterate, and the mortality rates due to malaria, tuberculosis and measles are far exceeding than any other place in the world, let alone the other basic necessities of life! 

As who’s to blame for this perpetual war and its catastrophic impact in the region? I Certainly believe, that there is a shared responsibility by (1) the Ethiopian governments, though  the past two administrations were more neglectful than the current one, whose irrefutable deeply rooted repression, neglect, exploitation (sowing divisions among the Somalis), survival strangulation, internal colonialism, discriminatory domination and forced annexation, which are not a recipe for pluralistic policy, is unequivocally the sole reason that motivated the rebellion and civil disobedience in the Somali region more than any other aspect,(2) the rebel groups whose unrealistic hope to slaughter a camel with razorblade or cut a tree with fingernail hurts the region more than it helps, and (3) of course, the British protectorate and other allies back then, who in the first place set forcefully together two bones from different animals in 1948-54, and never looked back on whether those bones healed together or needed readjustment.

Now, before I came to the conclusion of this plea, let us look back to the 1998 Belfast peace agreement between the British government and the IRA that brought an end to the bloody struggle as both parties realized that the status-quo is no longer sustainable, and a substantive negotiation is the only way out. The IRA however, did not and could not defeat the might of the British military in Ireland; rather they created ungovernable environment in which the political, military, and financial costs of maintaining resistance resulted in forcing the British government into negotiation. What a responsible decision!

While bearing that in mind, I, on behalf of a large swath of Somali Diaspora, hereby earnestly plea to you, the foreign secretaries, and to the US & UK governments you represent in that regard, with all available leverages you may have, to find a pragmatic long lasting solution to the plight of the disadvantaged Somali ethnic group in Ethiopia.

Thank you

Farah Kolley   


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