My name is Ugaas, I am from the Ogaden a region mainly inhabited by people of Somali ethnicity. The Ogaden has a population of 5 million people, the residents are mainly agro-pastoralists they live in a simple life tendering to their livestock  and moving along ancestral pathways. Illiteracy rate is high and  most of the locals do not read or write they live hard but honest lives in tune with the land and the past.


Most of the people have never accepted the presence of Ethiopian troops, they regard them as colonists. There is history of rebellion between the Ogaden and Ethiopia`s  past and current regimes and it dates way back to the scramble and partition  of Africa. The Ogaden was separate from the larger Ethiopia until the British protectorate divided the regions in the Horn of Africa in their divide and rule policy and so there has been  a prolong resistance in the region, the regional resistance against the Ethiopians never ceased but its intensity varied from time to time and whoever studied the Abyssinian feudal empire State will conclude that the political instability in the horn of Africa are caused by a combination of the legacy of  the Abyssinian expansionist rule and the European colonial intervention, the result of colonization has produced continuous civil war in the Horn of Africa.

In 1994 Ogaden Liberation Front (ONLF) was formed to fight against Ethiopia, They use gorilla tactics and basically they don’t have official military bases and when they attack the Ethiopian security personnel, the Ethiopian security apparatus collectively punishes the local communities,so we innocent people who have no affiliation with ONLF have been always caught in a cross fire. I always remember an African proverb that says  when two bulls fight the grass suffer, we the Somali  people in the Ogaden are that proverbial grass.

Razing of entire villages to the ground, extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, disappearance of people, rape of women, down to  dusk curfews and arbitrary  arrests  are the order of the day in the Ogaden region. The region has no good infrastructure  and it looks  like a military  garrison; there is always a huge presence of military personnel  in the region. Human rights groups  and international  aid providers remain persona-non-grata in the Ogaden region.

The Ogaden region is reported to be rich in natural gas that was first discovered  when the  Italians under dictator Benito Mussolini.They occupied  Ethiopia for 9 years  in the 1930’s. The Ethiopian army and the local security organisation in the Ogaden always engage in organised displacement, collective punishment and there are always incidents of gang  rapes in different  villages in the Ogaden.

I went to Dambas primary school  from  1999-2007.and I later  joined Dambas high school  where  I completed my A-levels in 2011 with grade A  ;that was the highest  grade a student from that region  has ever  scored  in the history of academics  in that region and I was the 5th best nationally.

Allow me dear reader  to take you  a short journey  about my life.Life for a growing  boy  wasn’t all a play at least  not for  boys  with  parents  like mine, my mother had never had the benefit of formal education herself but she was determined that I should  be sent to school at the earliest  opportunity and my father probably due to my mother’s  persuasive  power  he was strongly in favour. 

When I was growing  up there were a lot of injustices that was taking place around me and as a kid  ,I couldn’t  understand  why no one was ever brought into book. Injustices that consumed people’s  lives and separated loved ones ,which also made me a victim. The wheels of justice were frozen and not spinning  the way it was expected .later on I realised  that there was no justice but only pain spread equally. If I had the power I could have to make sure justice for them was meted in a different  way for what they  have done  and what they have allowed  to be done in the Ogaden.

When I was young I had dreams like  any other  kid in the world, one day I will  see an airplane  on the sky and i will point  at it and tell the little  man growing inside me that one  day I will fly and be inside “that thing”. At that time, I even couldn’t  imagine how the inside of a plane. Looked like; I only  knew  the man or  the woman who  makes “that thing “to be in motion  was called a pilot.

However, it was when  I was In high School that I realised my dreams.I was good in academics  and I knew my dreams were valid, yes I wanted to be a journalist, i wanted to talk about my people to represent their grievances to people somewhere  in the world  who understand justice and knows what humanity is. You know to have some sense of humanity  isn’t just walking or standing  on two legs, but it rather means  to have some kind of conscience  to know rights  from wrongs. Humanity  in the Ogaden has lost its meaning  and it’s coming to a screeching halt everyday.

Unfortunately my huge dreams , all my life the charming, ever-dreaming boy inside me was killed when I was tortured countless times and arrested multiple times due  to unfounded suspicions and allegations that I was a member of ONLF just because I was  bringing large groups of students to raise their educational  standards  and some other community  empowering initiatives. They thought that  I was  recruiting fighters  for the a  fore-mentioned  group. I was arrested  by a notorious police unit called Liyu police that are  famous for the heinous crimes they commit against the Ogaden  people In Ethiopia. 

They are poorly paid, non-educated and  rigid-numb-nutted bureaucrats. The federal government  of Ethiopia controls the Liyu police in theory and practice. They use killings as an object lesson to over awe the rest  of the Ogaden  into submission and their misbegotten strategy is always a mistaken conception that hurts. Members of the LIYU police conduct themselves  in obnoxious manner, they are menace to law and order who hold theories  which are antagonistic to the  orderly  process  of modern civilization. 

They are arrayed in opposition to ONLF,to  decency and to violence in the Ogaden. I was always  in a dilemma, for  the urge to be a man was frustrated by limitations  imposed  on me by Liyu police.

That was not the only time i found myself in detention broken, battered ,bound, beaten, betrayed and busted. My parents tried to help me but they couldn’t  do anything and one of the most terrifying things in the world you can never hope to see is your  parents wide-eyed, helpless and truly  scared out of their wits. I suffered  all the times i was locked ,I was not brought into trial and I was  locked in rooms that  had no amenities  of decent life it did not had water supply, no sink no pantry no nothing it was unthinkable primitive  life. I was interrogated many times by Liyu police when they kidnapped me they didn’t tell me where they were taking me or what they wanted from me. I had studied them closely; I looked at their eyes, their weapons and the uniform they wore and at first I couldn’t reach a conclusion on who they were, my instincts  pulled me into different angles every time  I thought about them. Three of them were youngish may be somewhere between 30-35,they were fit and may be in some stage in their lives they had a vigorous training. 

Some kind of training  that may be taught  them how to act together with a degree of efficiency, some kind of drill. To me they looked like military. Again  another angle of my mind says that “they don’t look like military “.Yes, they were organised and I remember them  mentioning a chain of command. But something in them didn’t look official  they were arguing among themselves . Their appearance too betrayed them. They looked liked some cheap mercenaries. 

They were rude, tense and noisy. Later through interrogations I came to know that they were Liyu police. They asked me rhetorical questions, teased, mocked and beat me every time I answered their questions in the negative. They questioned me about the activities  I organised in the school and in the village. I told them of how we were just academic minded students with no power to influence any one.

In the Ogaden if you refuse to swore allegiance to the Liyu police, you are branded a “A DAWAQODI” J which means a “spy”. The Ogaden is different from the world where you complain to one and blame the other, here every personnel or person in authority treat the Ogadenians the same. its like out of the frying pan into the fire. Get into trouble and you have your own self to blame. My dad once went to speak with the Mayor of the town and the top brass of the ONLF. He was told that if  he cant tame me, I will be tamed by force. Can someone please tell me the meaning of Taming?.

I spent a couple of days in detention  before my parents paid extortion Money. I was released  on a condition that I would cease the activities I was organising. There was nothing for me to “cease” because there was nothing fishy I was doing that could raise the ire, Finally I came home bruised, beaten and bleeding with scars all over my body that  I still bore. I was detained again by Liyu police and on all occasions their behaviours  was a replica of my  previous encounter. Their questions  was the same though they were different individuals it was as If they were reading from the same script. I had a phone with me and they asked me to account for every number in my contact earned me rough kicks.

They accused me of trying  to play “Clever”.I eavesdropped  while one them  was saying “let’s put this cough before it comes a whooping cough”. Every morning  I would wake up  to rough footsteps as it crashed  on dead leaves and small rocks outside  and to the rattle  of the padlock to my cell and every time the door opens I would be able to see a bar of bright sunlight as it feels  across the room. After that my life seemed completely without pattern or propose I lost  everything I couldn’t dream  no more, my whole life became uncertain  like I was walking  on a a toilet paper nothing  was making  any sense.

I don’t  believe in any armed  persons whether its individuals or organisations in Ethiopia. Liyu police are murderous, whose  minds and heart had been as dark as the blood that soaks  everything  around  them. They are dangerous  just like the other  uncouth and hard-core  security personnel in the country. They had tormented, tortured and killed  innocent  Somali people  in the Ogaden and they call it “maintaining  law and order”, And unless the historical  injustices  are addressed ,the effect  will go on and on like it has ever been, like a stream  of oil bleeding  to the ocean.

I got  so involved  with the things that happened to me. I always think about  my family  that I don’t  notice anything  else  going on its like you know you’re acting  on stage, some place and pulling  out all stops, dreaming of giving a performance  that will go down in history  and suddenly  you look up and see there is nobody  out there. …All seats are empty and the whole  place is dark. You have no audience. …finis. ..The things I have been through  in the Ogaden  had impacts on me that sometimes it puts  me into a stop.Until  I was tortured, detained and lost family  members I had  never  faced real  adversity in my personal  life and I had never  acquired the  skills necessary  to cope and even now as I had acquired them unwillingly, I had wielded them clumsily  and uncertainly. My family  are out of balance now   and to be without  them suddenly  made me to become an amputee.

The Ogaden region is a dark place  and if my instincts are not wrong it’s on fire. This darkness is not merely lack of light it’s real viscous darkness thick and heavy; darkness that  is not caused by loss of light  but by forceful removal of light, light violently  avoided  and replaced by oppression, extrajudicial killings, rape, torture etc. You can almost reach out and touch it as it were a wall, it feels so real. The density of the crazy smoke assaults live in darkness will make  us crazy eventually, Ogaden needs lights let’s come together and find light for Ogadenia.

Ali is a refugee from the Ogaden. follow the next edition from my diary in Qoraxey online.

The views expressed in this article are the  author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Qoraxey`s editorial policies.

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