Monday, March 5, 2012

The official homepage of Ogaden on the Internet - The Last Piece of Berlin Wall:Ogaden Online:



By: Dr. Mohamud Ugas

“There are only two ways to look at life: One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is…” – Albert Einstein

This was a paper originally presented to a conference held at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis on the thème of “Looking Back Looking Forward: The Ogaden Region in the 21st Century” under the panel: Ethiopia’s Contested Politics) fron June 18th to June 20th, 2010.

The Westerners call the Berlin Wall as the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart”, Easterners call it the “Iron Curtain”. But, many Africans believe that it was the fruits of what Germany had to harvest when Berlin partitioned Africa in 1884-1885 as a process of invasion, occupation colonization and annexation by European powers during the new imperialism period between 1881 and World War I in 1914. Now, the partition of Africa is over and the partition of Germany is over. The Berlin wall collapsed on October 3, 1991. But, there is still one piece of the wall remained that must collapse now – that is the Ogaden.

As Albert Einstein said “There are only two ways to look at life: One as though nothing is a miracle, the other as though everything is…”, whether you see the freedom of Ogaden as a miracle or not, it is going to occur before long. But, for some Somalis who are preoccupied with the fear of the name of the Ogaden as a new disease that we must take it to the lab for scientific refinement, this will be a bit of a dark horse to them, and I am telling them that the darkest hour is just before the down, “Fa-inna macal cusri yusran, inna macal cusri yusraa”. And if you doubt, read this book:


Presenter: Dr.Mahamud Ugas Muhumed,
First Regional Minister of Planning and Economic Development in the Ogaden, Former Assistant Lecturer; Senior Field Officer to UNDP and Now a Certified Manager and an International Organizational Development Consultant.

In this article, I will attempt to develop cross-cutting issues in food shortages in Ethiopia and particularly the situation of the Somali region (the Ogaden) that would challenge many readers to think through this number of issues while fostering an understanding of the underlying root causes of what I would content to be manmade food shortages.

In my twenty years of research in the economic system of the Somali territory in Ethiopia, probably the most insightful observations I made about the food shortages is that it is not complex to deal with but it is multifaceted . Hence, the paper will provide and describe some policy option that will make the transition of the Ethiopia democracy less volatile in terms of tasks related to the economic system of the Somali region of the Ogaden, which is substantially more complex, but not impossible, compared to the other regions in Ethiopia.

Food shortage is not only an economic issue as believed by many Ethiopian politicians. It is also political issue and philosophical issues. We have people with economic needs and wants and we have available economic resources. This paper will provide an overview of how intentionally the current Ethiopian regime destroyed the social structures, the flourishing and fundamental economic inputs and bases, and the planned anticipation of exploiting the abundant natural resources in the region.

Are Somalis in the Ogaden being denied their rights to exploit their natural resources, or do they lack the human capacity and competencies to appropriately utilize the natural resources in their region? Using key informant interviews data, the paper will shed light on the whole Ethiopian government approach and policies targeted at the Ogaden; it will include some anecdotal data individual opinions as well. Given that I have not had access to this region for a number of years, most of the analysis contained in this paper will come from secondary data rather than field work which can speak to the reality on the ground. Governments have fiduciary responsibility to govern appropriately and protect the overall interest of all its citizens, one has to wonder about the intentions behind certain policies. For instance, if a there is a government policy would allow the deliberate destruction of ten major projects and shuts industries in the one region? In all aspects of philosophy, technical economic analysis and value judgments, there is no proper answer to that other than labeling the regime as genocidal towards that region.


The human tragedy in the Ogaden started after European leaders agreed to partition the African continent into neatly bordered spheres of influence, which became a temptation to Abyssinians to think of colonizing the Ogaden. In April 10th 1891, Ethiopia’s Emperor Menelik II said in his circular letter addressed to Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia: “If Powers at a distance come forward to partition Africa between them, I do not intend to be an indifferent spectator.”

During the Second World War, after the expulsion of the Italians from the Horn of Africa, in 1941, the Ogaden came under British rule, and it remained subject to British military administration until 1948.
In 1946, the British foreign secretary, Mr. Ernest Bevin proposed the Somali nation including the Ogaden as a trust territory. The Bevin Plan met with unanimous opposition from the other Powers. The petitions of Ogadeni elders to the conference also became dead letter.

On September 23rd 1948, the British government decided to cede a great part of the Ogaden to Ethiopia without the knowledge and consent of the Ogaden people. Peaceful demonstrations against this act were brutally suppressed and scores of people were killed, in Jigjiga and elsewhere in the Ogaden. Haud and Reserved areas were the last part of the Ogaden, which were handed over to Ethiopia by the British Authorities, on February 28th 1955.

During Haile Selassie’s rule, the Ethiopian Imperial Army committed unspeakable crimes against the defenceless civilians in the Ogaden. In 1961, the towns of Dhagaxbuur, Qalaafo and Ayshaca, were razed to the ground by the Ethiopian occupation forces.

In 1974, when the military overthrew emperor Haile Selassie’s theocratic rule, they put in place a communist military dictatorship led by the Red Negus colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. The Dergue military junta, in Addis Ababa, enforced more oppressive policies in the Ogaden. Summary executions, arbitrary detentions without charges or trial, dispossessing the people of their properties, emergency laws and dusk to dawn curfew were commonplace. In its Amharisation policy, the communist regime of Mengistu has transferred thousands of Ethiopian settlers into the Ogaden in an Attempt to change the demographic nature of the region, eliminate the Ogadeni-Somali national identity and to transform the Ogaden into a region of Ethiopia, in which indigenous Ogadenis will be an insignificant minority.

In 1991, after Mengitu’s downfall, Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) formed a new party called Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), composed of TPLF and converted prisoners of war from Oromo and Amhara nationalities in order to cover the Tigre domination in the new party.

After the installation of the TPLF dominated government in Ethiopia, EPRDF presented a new charter as a guiding principle in its rule during the so-called transitional period of two years. According to that charter, among other things all democratic principles, human rights, and right to self-determination of all nations should have been recognized and fully respected. Also, the resources of the country and international donations would be shared equitably.

The new Charter was welcomed by Ogaden people, who suffered from a century of repression and exploitation under the Imperial and Military regimes, which ruled the empire-state of Ethiopia respectively.

Article 1 of the Transitional Charter stated that: "Based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights individual human rights shall be respected fully, and without any limitations whatsoever."
Nevertheless, the aforementioned international human rights treaties were not translated into action by the Ethiopian government, which has no respect whatsoever for its international obligations and commitments. A new era of darkness begun in the Ogaden where by the worst and unprecedented incidents were seen throughout the 52 districts of the region since 1991.

The international legal definition of the crime of genocide is found in Articles II and III of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide stating that

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national ethnical, racial or religious groups, as such (1) killing members of the group; (2)causing serious bodily harm to members of the group; (3)deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (4)imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (5)forcibly transferring children of the group to another group .

According to Fowsia Abdulkadir’s analysis in her article on “Genocide Policies and Poor Human Rights Record in the Ogaden” presented at the Fifth International Biennial Conference of The International Association of Genocide Scholars on June 7th to 10th, 2003 in Galway, Ireland, “the genocide that has taken place, and often still does in The Ogaden would easily fit in the first three categories”. This paper shows many incidents that supports this analysis. Also many evidences are shown in many reports of OHRC and other previous studies.


For quite a long time, the Ethiopian communities saw lack of national political will to apply laws written in the papers and redressal mechanisms to ensure justice for victims. As a German diplomat said in 1999 “It seems that there is no independent justice system in Ethiopia. Judges and Public Prosecutors are being discharged if their judgment is not according to EPRDF political convenience .” This is further compounded by the fact of continuous violence in the state, the economic deterioration, regular famine and malnutrition and uncontrolled HIV/AIDS prevalence in the country.

Despite the fact that Ethiopia was not colonized, there is no doubt that the peasants and nomads faced the worst colony and abuses in the history of mankind resulting from abuse of power of the very few people in power and autocratic ruling of the ethnic group dominating the country.

History tells that Emperor Menelik II (1889 - 1913) founded Addis Ababa previously known as Finfine in Oromo language and initiated building the railway from Djibouti to Addis Ababa with the help of France. It was just after that time, when the first modern school and hospital were constructed, and the first bank was introduced. It was also that time the name Ethiopia was introduced. Before Menelik’s conquest, there was Abyssinia and other independent states such as the Ogaden. Oromo, Sidama, Kafa, Harar and so on. When Emperor Menelik was expanding his power to the South and East as the foundation of the Ethiopian State, the idea of the civilized communities and uncivilized communities came into being.

By overlooking the rich culture of the Oromo and the contribution of Oromo peasants to the economy, Menelik II started calling Oromo as wild people who contributed nothing to the Ethiopian civilization. Similarly, he termed Somalis in the Ogaden as nomadic opportunists who are led by their herds and immigrants in search of grazing and wet areas and contribute nothing at all. Sidama, Gurage, Waleyta and many other nationalities in Ethiopia were made to accept that they are underprivileged and lower in dignity. These created increasing antagonistic development between the dominant nationalities and others, because they were powerless to address their problems in ways that enhance their existence and freedom. It was the European colonialist who were supporting Menelik in oppressing these innocent people.

The problem here is that, this equates the Abyssinian history, culture, and political tradition with that of the entire country. As Lewis (1992) stated

As with other aspects of behavior and culture, the standard view of Ethiopia is very often formed by the nature of society in the north and is viewed from northern perspective.
The hatred among the Ethiopian communities emanated from the political subjugation and economic exploitation of the northerners and the extension of their traditional autocratic style of government over the peoples they defeated and made them obey their dictations and dominance. The whole country was ruled by a handful of nobles and priests while the rest starved in poverty and oppression.

One unique behavior one can see in Ethiopia is the extreme introversion, which is normal behavior of most of the people in Ethiopia, and abnormal in other cultures in the world. You will see a mother telling her son every morning not to tell the time to anyone, lest he may be arrested by the government. Nobody expects and tells the truth and that is also very normal in the Ethiopian standard. It is a norm not to be a witness. These are all the consequences of the oppressions of past and present regimes of Ethiopia.

Source: SERP/OWS 1998


A. Natural Irrigation Schemes in the Ogaden

There is nearly 1.4 million hectors of cultivable land which is some of the main resources that Somalis in the Ogaden use to rely on (see the Figure-1 below). The local people use to sell their produce throughout the markets of every district in Somalia before 1991. This is fertile land that does not absolutely need any fertilizer. Good example is the yield of sesame seed oil per hectare in the Ogaden with only two irrigation is 1.5 ton compared to 0.2 ton in the other part of Ethiopia with fertilizer and three irrigations and 0.5 ton in the other part of Africa.

In many occasions, the World Bank Representative in Ethiopia – Mr. Isac Diwan gave hints to the Ethiopian government to get advantage of this fertile land. He said in his proposals:

In 2050 there will be 150 million Ethiopians of which 50 or 60 million will be in the cities. You do not want to have the remaining population of a 100 million or so, in the highlands. The situation in the highlands is already unsustainable, and parts of the area are in a Malthusian trap with poor farmers eating up the land, with soil degradation and soil losses due to deforestation. So you have 30 or 40 million that have to be somewhere else. There is a lot of land in the country that is not used. There is a limit to how many livelihoods can be sustained on the highlands. Take advantage of the rivers in the fertile plains in the lowlands. There are three to four million hectares that could be irrigated. [1] IRIN. 22 Aug. 2003.

This is clearly the enhancement of the highlanders and a deprivation of the local Somalis in the very expense of their own lands.

B. Livestock

More than 75% of the total livestock in Ethiopia and nearly 15% of the total livestock in Sub-Saharan Africa live in the Ogaden (see the Figure-2 below). Imagine only 7 million people own this resource and if you use simple arithmetic, you will find that every individual will get a share of nearly 4 heads of livestock, which is even enough not to be termed as poor in the economic class.

Source: SERP/African Development Bank

Source: SERP/African Development Bank

C. Natural Gas

According to Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Ogaden Basin covers 350,000 sq km and is the largest proven hydrocarbon bearing sedimentary basin in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are three large gas discoveries in the basin which contain estimated reserves of approximately 3Tcf (Jehdin, Hillale and Hargelle) and Obale in early stage of exploration. In addition to that there are proven signs in Warder and Kelafo area.

Source: Regional Investment Bureau, Jigjiga. 2008

Source: Regional Investment Bureau, Jigjiga. 2008

The Ogaden Basin was subjected to an exclusive Basin-wide joint study by more than 22 international giant oil companies since 1930. For Instance, the following companies intervened since that time:

FROM 1930 – 1970, AJIP, SHELL, MOBIL, WHITESTONE E-WERATH, VOYAGER and SINCLAIR landed in the Ogaden in search of gas and oil.

FROM 1970 – 1990, CAL-TECK, TENNECO, NOREX, METHANOL, AND STORY conducted exploration.

FROM 1990- 2009 HUNT OIL, SICOR, TENNECO, SPEE, GAIL, MIDROC, PETRONAS, LUNDIN, SIL, ZPEB, AND CNOOC, had some kind of oil operations in the Ogaden.

D. Rangeland

In the Ogaden there is huge and expansive, mostly unimproved lands on which a significant proportion of the natural vegetation is native grasses, grass-like plants, forbs, shrubs, and trees where more one thousand different species of trees are available. More than 80% of natural vegetations in Ethiopia are found in the Ogaden and yet, many call the region as a dessert. There is no single square kilo meter that could be scientifically called a dessert in the Ogaden, because, the annual rain is from 500 mm to 1500 mm and 75% of the region is full of green vegetations during the two rainy seasons. Of course, there are two hot and dry seasons, most of the vegetations shed leaves and revive the next two rainy seasons as usual everywhere in the world.

There are more than 12 species of tree that produce frankincense, which is an aromatic gum resin obtained from wild trees in Ogaden and used chiefly as incense and in perfumes.


From 1963 up to 1999, the following ten development projects were initiated in the Ogaden. Many of them were multimillion projects funded by the United Nations, World bank, African Development Bank, foreign investors, the federal government and the regional government. The projects covered from one district to almost all the 52 districts in the Ogaden. The total number of beneficiaries varied from 30,000 to 5 million.

1. Regional Chamber of Commerce (RCC)
2. West Godey River Diversion Project (WGRDP)
3. Livestock Marketing Company (LMC)
4. South East Rangeland Project (SERP)
5. El-Bahay Irrigation Dam (EID)
6. Foreign Investment Bureau (FIB)
7. Calub Gas Project - Community Development Component (CGP-CDC)
8. Ethiopian Social Rehabilitation and Development Fund (ESRDF)
9. Wabishabele Agro-Industrial Project (WAIP)
10. God-usbo Natural Salt Extraction Company (GNSEC)

These projects were meant to improve the region’s economic and social conditions by getting advantage of its natural resources. Most of the projects were initiated by the local community with the support of the United Nations agencies, but after certain period, the Ethiopian government stopped them before the fruits of each project were used. Over 63 million USD were planned annually to develop these projects. But, unfortunately, the EPRDF government started killing these projects one at a time from 1992 up to 2000 (see the Figure-4 below). Since the year 2000, there has not been any single development project in the Ogaden.

Source: Regional Investment Bureau, 2008

Source: Regional Investment Bureau, 2008

If we take SERP as an example, the South-East Rangelands Development Project was established as a part of the Third National Livestock Development Project (TLDP) in 1984 during the Dergue regime. SERP has been 80% financed by a loan from the African Development Bank with 20% counterpart funds from the Government of Ethiopia with the annual capital budget of 12 million US$. The primary goals of the project were to develop programs for delivery of animal health, rangeland management and livestock water resources to the region.

The project has made considerable progress toward the projected goals. Overall 50% of the target goals have been reached within a period of 14 years. Twenty five development centers have been constructed and staffed in 8 of the 9 zones. Covering an area of 245,000 square kilometers, the project delivered veterinary drugs and services, constructed roads and ponds, established women’s groups and explored improvements in rangeland resources. The EPRDF government first confiscated all the machineries, and vehicles, then used the veterinary centers as military garrisons, and finally closed the project for no reason.

SERP was to establish a healthy environment for the livestock in the whole region, in terms of grazing, pasture, veterinary services and potable water. It was to empower the livestock herders with the means and mechanisms to cope up with the recurrent droughts. It was intended to create mobile veterinary clinics and hand them over to trained professionals in a privatized way, so that the veterinary system would be sustainable in the hands of the rural community and would be accessible to all. During the course of action, the regional government was to open the Regional Chamber of Commerce and register all willing traders and merchants exporting livestock. The Chamber of Commerce was to subsidize the traders in order to enable them stand on their own. The Federal Government was also to look for a foreign market for the livestock as it was in the past. None of these happened. The project was deviated from its course and served as transportation to the EPRDF army. Finally the funding agencies, including African Development Bank withdrew its budget and the project was dissolved in the year 2000. All the other projects had similar advantage for the community and ended up in the same way in the hand of the Ethiopian government


Governments have fiduciary responsibility to govern appropriately and protect the overall interest of all its citizens; one has to wonder about the intentions behind certain policies. For instance, if a there is a government policy would allow the deliberate destruction of ten major projects and shuts industries in the region as we have seen in the preceding section? In all aspects of philosophy, technical economic analysis and value judgments, there is no proper answer to that other than labeling the regime as genocidal towards that region. David Marcus (2003) discusses in his article on Famine Crime in International Law that

International criminal law assigns individual responsibility to those who deliberately or recklessly create, prolong, or inflict faminogenic conditions. After demonstrating with three case studies how famines often arise out of gross human rights violations, the author defines two degrees of famine crimes corresponding to mental states of knowledge and recklessness and locates in existing international criminal law the elements of the two definitions.

This paper makes the necessary analysis to get enough justification to support David’s argument in the context of the Ogaden poverty and famine. The only reason that those ten projects could be destroyed is as David Marcus said a deliberate one that those who are responsible of this faminogenic conditions where thousands of innocent civilians died must be brought in front of the international criminal law.

The most commonly used way to measure poverty is based on incomes or consumption levels. A person is considered poor if his or her consumption or income level falls below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs. According to the World Bank definition, this minimum level is usually called the poverty line. What is necessary to satisfy basic needs varies across time and societies. Therefore, poverty lines vary in time and place, and each country uses lines which are appropriate to its level of development, societal norms and values. What the Somalis in the Ogaden had was livestock and agriculture and both industries were destroyed. Therefore, people had no other means of survival.

However, not many studies were conducted in the pastoral community in the Ogaden, in the good years most of the pastoral communities used to be above the poverty line taking their income and consumption into consideration, based on their normal staple food, which was milk and meat, and they got enough of that in the Ogaden context. Their nutritional status was always above normal in the good years, and declining down a little, when there was no rain and pasture. Similarly, the nomads had a good coping mechanism during the bad years. They used to sell some of their livestock and switch from milk and meat into a new staple food, such as grain etc. A new research conducted in Ethiopia by Save the Children Fund – UK and Institute of Development Studies in 2003 found that

In the past, wealthier community members provided a support structure for the poor but now deepening poverty is eroding this traditional coping mechanism and the number of wealthier families has fallen from 32 per cent to 2 per cent in the last 20 years.

They had traditional early warning system of predicting their future. Based on the change of pasture, water wells, and increase in the new immigrants in search of wet areas, they used to predict whether the next rainy season will be on time or not and then decide on what to do if the next rainy season misses. They always divide their livestock into three, (1) the lactating animals, (2) the non-lactating animals and (3) those which are marketable. They used to sell the marketable animals before things get worse and buy grain and goats, which are more drought resistance and could be slaughtered when the worst comes. The young men and bigger children were on the move with the non-lactating animals into a long distance in search of wet areas and pasture, while children, women and older people moves with the lactating animals near to the source of water where they had previously reserved the grass and pasture. The clan elders were free to exercise their culture and life and used to guide their families accordingly. They had very strong social structure, which has recently been destroyed by the present EPRDF regime; Declan Conway Lecturer in Natural Resources; University of East Anglia said in 2003.

Drought and famine have been a feature of life in Ethiopia throughout history, from the major droughts in 1888 and 1913 and in more recent times 1972/3 and 1984/5 stands out. Now there are warnings that this year may have disastrous consequences perhaps even greater than those of 1984/5. This raises the questions why is it that Ethiopia has been and remains subject to drought and why is drought associated with such tragic consequences for the people of Ethiopia?.

The very word Ethiopia conjures up an image of hunger, malnutrition, failed crops, failed rains, untimely floods and heart-breaking television pictures of the famine. Many Ethiopians still do not eat enough daily calories to maintain good health and an estimated millions of poor people need food aid every year. There is no disagreement that the world communities associate the name Ethiopia with famine and malnutrition. The Ogaden region was not included in this scenario before 1991 when the new EPRDF regime came into being.

Hence, no need of wasting time to discuss how far this goes on. But, as Dr. Declan said, “Why is it that Ethiopia has been and remains subject to drought and why is drought associated with such tragic consequences for the people of Ethiopia?”, This paper carefully analyzes the root causes of this tragedy. Except in the Ogaden region, many of the reasons for this misfortune falls under lack of fertile land, concentration and high population density (75 person per sq km) as well as lack of proper management. But, the case of Ogaden is totally different. The region is full of natural resources. The population density is very small (5 person per sq km), and these droughts and famine were mainly experienced right after the new Ethiopian regime.

Let’s take the case of the Ogaden where 75% of the people are known to be nomadic in life and the remaining are town dwellers and agro-pastoralists. The number of sedentary farmers are very small and live along the sides of the lower Wabi-Shabelle basin, some area of Web, Ganale, and Dawa Rivers. This people are in total marginalization in terms of economic development and social services. The infrastructure is very poor. There is no permanent electricity in anyone of the 52 districts of the Ogaden. People mainly rely on livestock rearing and export through the ports of Berebra and Bosaso of Somalia. FAO estimated the value of livestock moving through the ports of Berbera and Bosasso alone to be US $120 million in 1984. More than 80% of this livestock was coming from the Ogaden . In addition to that, the livestock export through the ports of Asseb and Mezawa of Eritrea coming from the Ogaden was very strong and significant in those very same days.

Somalis living in the Ogaden suffered a lot as a result of the livestock markets, which stopped when the new Ethiopian regime come into power in 1991. The international community has been funding Ethiopia in many multi-faceted projects and the highly valued programs of the poverty reduction strategies of the World Bank and IMF since 1991. When Ethiopia introduced the Agricultural Development-Led Industrialization (ADLI), all those projects supposed to be implemented in the Ogaden have stopped without success and without the knowledge of the target beneficiaries. In Somalia, there is still high demand of the livestock from the Ogaden in the ports of Berbera and Bosaso. But, the Ethiopian officers labeled the route to Somalia as contraband, and any herd suspected to be through that route is subject to be confiscated by the EPRDF army. Nevertheless, all the resources of the previous Ethiopian Livestock Export Company were transferred to Tigrai region, and there has not been any export of livestock through the ports of Asseb and Mezewa at all since 1991.

It is the Ethiopian military officers who intentionally hampered the development and made all on-going projects stop in The Ogaden. The new Ethiopian government restricted the movements of the herds in search of wet areas. The government also divided the rangeland into new clan based zones with new traditional chiefs of their own supporters by arresting or killing the respected clan elders and chiefs in the old clan based social structures. Ethiopia created hatred among the sub-clans and ruined the three old methods of coping mechanisms by the pastoralists.

What the media tabloids fail to disclose is that - despite the drought and failures of rain, in the context of the regional development in the Ogaden, many on-going developments (as shown in Figure-4 above) have stopped, and many others in the initial stage were diverted as we have discussed in the preceding section.

Almost all the people living in the Ogaden would have been either direct or indirect beneficiaries for every one of those projects. Their annual capital budget was more than ten times the annual development budget allocated for the region as a whole. The federal government refused to hand over these projects to the nominal regional government and finally stopped them for good.

Many countries in the tropical zone are disaster prone areas. But, the disaster at this point, which is the combination of droughts as hazards and the vulnerability of the people, happens in every ten years once. When this disaster occurs, the affected people have to pass through different stages, such as emergency response stage, recovery, rehabilitation, development and preparedness stages.

Many scholars draw an analogy between the role of decision makers and the root causes of disasters, and agree that disasters are political both before and after the event. This analogy is supported by Lasswell’s classic 1936 “who gets what, when, and how,” Easton’s 1965 “authoritative allocation of values,” and the 1992 Dye, Zeigler, and Lichter “who says what to whom in which channel and to what effect,” Most so-called disasters result from value-allocating decisions and non-decisions in years to decades before impact that are deeply political and not simply the outcome of unalterable social or economic conditions and trends.

The Ethiopian government has also destroyed the traditional social structures and introduced its new clan elders who have to be sympathetic to their policies, but were stigmatized by their own family members. The EPRDF political system became an ultimatum to interfere the daily life of the poor nomads in the Ogaden, up to an extent that elders and chiefs could not manage their families and clans. The EPRDF army has unjustly labeled all the respected chiefs and clan elders as supporters of The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), and hence no body could ensure the coherence of the nomads for fear of being persecuted. In the simplest argument between two young camel-men, the situation changes into clash and fighting starts where tens of innocent people die on the spot. The politicians also inspire the local people during the election campaigns and assigns new land to the sub-clan that is supposed to be the supporters of EPRDF policies. All these resulted the death of many civilians and loss of properties. According to study conducted by the Ogaden Welfare Society and funded by the USA-Embassy Addis Ababa and TROCAIRE, 3,000 people died in the inter-clan fighting from 1991 to 2,000. This is not recorded anywhere in the world and incidents like these remain unaddressed.

The new EPRDF regime might have been afraid of empowering others so that, Somalis in the Ogaden could easily elect their own people with high integrity and ask for referendum. That is the fear of the Tigrai people. Therefore, their response is to starve the people to death, so that Tigrai can still govern the other Ethiopian people against their will. The Ethiopian governments intentionally and irresponsibly created, prolong, and inflicted faminogenic conditions for the sake of the Tigrai people to be in the power.

The extent to which understanding of these as a disaster caused by a pure politics is reflected in a major 2002 report on U.S. foreign assistance named as “Natsios Report ”, where it is noted (p. 24) that

The vast majority of those killed in natural disasters occur in countries with low incomes and low levels of human development, reflecting the correlation between poverty and vulnerability.That is government reports (usually cautiously worded on this point) now accept that politics are strongly evidenced in the creation or allowance of disaster pre-conditions. After a disaster strikes, political decisions and non-decisions largely determine how quickly and effectively the right intervention is to be made at the right time in the right place, so that response, recovery, and rehabilitation programs would be fruitful and timely.


According to a report produced by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in the year 2003

Over the past two decades, African countries as a whole have made substantial progress in human development. During this period, per capita income in many countries grew; life expectancy has increased; infant mortality rates have been reduced and adult literacy rates have increased”. Nevertheless, World Bank report of 2003 says that “the Ethiopian Gross National Income has dropped from 8.7 billion in 1990 down to 6.4 billion in 2002 and the Per Capita Income has dropped from $170 in 1990 down to $100 in the year 2002. Similarly, the infant mortality rate has increased and the Life Expectancy has decreased from 45 years in 1990 down to 42 years in 2002.

This is a catastrophe that many of the international community does not value the reality in the grass root as such, when they are simply pumping money into the present regime without conditionality and without the knowledge and participation of the target beneficiaries. The words of the representative of the National Dutch Foreign Policy Institute in 1998 are true. The representative said:

The unconditional aid that the Netherlands now gives to Ethiopian government supports a policy of divide and rule and bears in it the dangers of what we have seen in ex-Yugoslavia”.

George Monbiot discusses in his article on the Age of Lunacy the conception of what foreign aid is for and says

Aid has always been an instrument of foreign policy. During the Cold War, it was used to buy the loyalties of states which might otherwise have crossed to the other side. Even today, the countries which receive the most money tend to be those which are of greatest strategic use to the donor nation, which is why the US gives more to Israel than it does to sub-Saharan Africa.

The international community must have means of maintaining the human rights and in the meantime keeping their strategic uses. If I take the words of George Monbiot for granted, and if I suppose that the unity and the existence of the Ethiopian government is one of the main strategic objectives of the donor countries, then there is a better way of keeping the unity of Ethiopian than empowering a regime or even a few people in power. Where is the Central Committee of the Tigrai People’s Libration Front (TPLF) now? It was dismantled and is now in the hand of only one dictator.
Surprisingly enough, as George witnesses, a hospital in Gondor does not have the basic textbooks on tropical diseases it needs, but US had spent $2m on medical textbooks that American publishers hadn't been able to sell at home, called them aid and dumped them in Ethiopia. Now what one can see in the hospital is 21 copies of an 800-page volume called Aesthetic Facial Surgery and 24 volumes of a book called Ophthalmic Pathology and mind you there is no ophthalmic pathologist in training in Ethiopia. This happens everywhere in the country, because the right people are not consulted and are not asked of their priority needs.

Seven million people in the Ogaden with all the abundant natural resources and the millions of livestock would not have been starved to death, if the international community makes the right intervention with the full participation of direct beneficiaries. And if there is will there is way.

The situation in the Ogaden is out of control. There is no law and order. The military commits a number of extra-judicial killings, including alleged political killings as retaliation to the activities of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. As a result of all these pressure, people migrate from their dwellings and lead hard lives in the rural areas. According to the definition of IDPs many people in the Ogaden are real IDPs, but unfortunately, the international community does not know what is going on in the Ogaden. It is a region that is not completely in the record of the world books. For example, the international community funded the Norwegian Refugee Council to conduct a global survey on the Internally Displaced People in 1998. This survey did not enumerate the tens of thousands of IDPs in the Ogaden. The survey says in page 81 that “the IDPs in the pastoral areas are due to cross border cattle raids from Kenya, Somalia and Sudan .” The objective of this survey was to produce single report, which will provide an invaluable reference towards understanding the plight of displaced people and encouraging solutions for them. This means that, Somalis in the Ogaden had even missed this simple opportunity.

So long as there is voting and elections, many believe that Ethiopia is democratic country, which deserves to be supported. When Professor Jeffrey Sachs who is a special adviser to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, heading the Millennium Project Ethiopia; was saying in an interview he gave to the United Nations Integrated Regional Information Network on 28th July, 2003 that “Ethiopia is a well-governed country that struggles at US $100 per capita.” What did the professor mean by well-governed country with US$100 per capita! An old man was greeting a family living in an isolated rural area in the Ogaden and asked them how they were. The head of the family replied “Ri’na way noo irmaantahay, iimaankana waan iska qabnaa” meaning “we have a lactating goat, and we have the faith of God”. The other man said “daniba illaahay iimaanka wuu idiinka qaadi” meaning “ if you have only one lactating goat, that God himself will make you loss his faith.” There is no doubt that, if Ethiopia is governing people with US$100 per capita, sooner or later Ethiopia will not govern anyone. This and many other similar type of people with simple pre-occupations are misleading the world attitude towards Ethiopia and taking Ethiopia as a model for democracy.

Ethiopia has violated all tenets of human rights and does not deserve to be considered as a model for the African democracy, which in reality is rather a hallucination when one realizes the tactics of the government in hampering the development as a retaliation for the activities of the political groups and the armed fighting going on in many parts of the country. Professor Jeffrey again says

Ethiopia only sells two goods primarily to world markets right now: coffee and leather. Those will not be enough for long term growth so Ethiopia has to compete in new areas – maybe new agricultural products, maybe textiles, maybe more tourism.

He doesn’t want to talk about the abundant livestock and natural gas in the Ogaden. Who else is going to remember the plight of the Somali people in the Ogaden?
The international community has set a number of targets in Ethiopia in the Millennium Development Goals of 2015. However, committed the international community may be at this point, it is very hard to believe that Somalis in the Ogaden were included. Because, the number of all those important projects would not have been hampered for the last 19 years and the status of the human rights would have been improving rather than deteriorating. MacCornmack – the President of US charity Save the Children said in a news conference in Addis Ababa on July 28th, 2003 “The US has poured in around US $500 million, but only a fraction has been spent on combating the causes of the crisis”. He also labeled the America’s aid policy to famine-stricken Ethiopia as “flawed”.
The international community is either in hallucination or absolutely ill-disposed towards their aid to the poor people in Ethiopia in general and to the Ogaden in particular.


Abdulahi Mo’alim Dhodaan who is one of the respected Somali poets said in one of his poems

Tab uu laasahaaga u dhurtiyo tuugo nin u jeeda, hurduu kugu tallaaliye ileyn toos ku odhan mayo.This literally means “One whose intention is stealing and fetching water from your wells would rather induce you to sleep than wake you up.

This is purely a human rights concern. Although prestigious human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch/Africa and Ogaden Human Rights Committee have issued several reports about well-documented human rights violations in the Ogaden by Ethiopia, the international community has remained tight lipped about those violations for the last nineteen years. Therefore, the first thing this paper emphasizes is the necessity of the international community's help to force Ethiopia to honor its commitments to internationally accepted human rights principles.

Ethiopia, especially the Ogaden is already sinking into the marshes of poverty, destitution and vulnerability. Already a great deal of money has gone into keeping people alive and in comparison with the resources invested in meeting the aspirations for progress of the people and lifting them out of the cycle of poverty has been worthless. Before the international community takes any action towards supporting Ethiopia, the root causes of these vulnerability and hazards are to be thoroughly researched and solved.

To tackle the underlying problems of Ethiopia in general and that of the Ogaden in particular, the following major policy changes are to be made:

  • Sustainable investment is to be made in extensive studies in the natural resources and the livestock in the Ogaden and exploited with the full and free participation of the local community without necessarily any mutual agreement with Ethiopia. Because it doesn’t make any difference from the previous mutual agreements in the development in the Ogaden, which became fruitless.
  • The whereabouts of the aforementioned ten projects are to be found: South East Rangeland Project, Elbahay Water Dam, Wabi-Shabelle River Diversion, Regional Chamber of Commerce, Regional Investment Bureau, Ethiopian Social Rehabilitation and Development Project, Livestock Export Corporation, God-usbo Salt Production, Wabi-Shabele Agro-Industrial Project and Calub Gas Project – Community Development Component.
  • The international community should closely monitor and observe the elections in the Ogaden and the regional parliament should be given the freedom to set their own agendas without pressure and dictation from the Prime-Minister’s Office.
  • Somalis in the Ogaden should understand the real meaning of Dhodan’s statement “Tab uu laasahaga u dhurtiyo tuugo nin u jeeda, hurduu kugu talaaliye ileyn toos ku odhan mayo” This literally means “One whose intention is stealing and fetching water from your wells would rather induce you to sleep than wake you up
  • Somalis should remember the words of Ishac Diwan - the head of the World Bank in Ethiopia speaking on behalf of the international communities, giving hint to Ethiopia for the highlanders and forgetting and denying the rights of the Somalis. This makes clear to everyone that Ethiopia is only for the highlanders and not for the pastoralist. The World Bank doesn’t propose anything for the Ogaden but, is worried about the long future of those who live in the highland. Compare this proposal with the statement of Dhodaan ““Xornimo aad saleelle u heshaan idinka oo seexday waa tii saancad laga qaado oo lagu sunaabaaye” meaning “getting freedom leisurely by sleeping is not at all possible.” It is the sole responsibility of the Somalis in the Ogaden to think of their development and freedom. All other people including the Ethiopians in power are all outsiders.


1. Pankhurst, Sylvia. British policy in Eastern Ethiopia. Essex, England: Richard Mayne’s Press. 1946
2. THE OGADEN: Downtrodden and Disenfranchised People. OHRC. Feb. 2004
3. M. Ugas and Ahmed Abdulahi. Research paper on: Ethiopian Atrocities on the Ogaden Community. 2001.
4. Thomas Packenham. The Scramble for Africa: White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912. Avon Books, December 1992