“Ogaden Region” a deliberate misnomer of Ethiopian Somali Regional

Sayid Abdalle Xasan monument built by Abdi Iley
Sayid Abdalle Xasan monument built by Abdi Iley
Sayid Abdalle Xasan monument built by Abdi Iley
Sayid Abdalle Xasan monument built by Abdi Iley

Volatile Politic has always been a part and parcel of the Ethiopian history. It has been driven by an extreme interest to dominate resources and wealth. The modern Ethiopian history dates back to the late 19th century. Before that Ethiopia’s history was restricted to the Northern highland provinces, such as Gonder, Gojjam, Walo, Northern Shoa and Tigrai. This was the region traditionally known as Abyssinia. But most Ethiopian did not want to tell us this history. Rather they are fixed on the history that portrays that Ethiopia has 3000 years history. No one dispute the nation could have history that dates back to 3 millenniums. But it is also a fact that this history does not characterize the current Ethiopia.

There are abundant historical facts that clearly show that the current Ethiopia, which composes, Somali, Oromo, Southern Nation/Nationalities, and many others whom it would be impossible to exhaustively list here, was created by the late Emperor Minilk II, who reigned from 1889-1910. As a result, there is no doubt that one would hardly find a plausible argument in the assertion that Ethiopian’s 3000 years history, many want us to believe as a matter of fact, is a myth that has no any historical evidence. As the saying goes, ‘old habit dies hard’, there are many people who still linger on the old system that has no relevance to the modern contemporary time.

Recently when I was browsing on internet, I came across a website that claims it stands for exposing the brutality of the current Ethiopian regime to the international community. Taking into account the current Ethiopian regime flagrant disregard to basic principles of human dignity and democratic values, I was interested to further look at this website. To my surprise I was taken aback by the misconception I found in one of its posting. The misconception I am talking about is the Ethiopian Somali Regional state misnamed as “Ogaden Region”. To right the wrong already inflicted by this self-appointed champion of democratic value in Ethiopia, I have no option than take my pen and write this short blog.

I could have remained silent and shrugged the idea on one side and continued on my ordinary life. However, if I did this it would have been disservice to fellow country men and women who have no idea about this region. Many would agree with me. But I also expect significant number of people would consider my saying as another plot to distort the Ethiopia’s history. As a result, I leave the judgement to the wider reader.

What is the official name of Somali inhabited region in Ethiopia?

The official name of Somali inhabited region in Ethiopia has been known as ‘Ethiopian Somali Regional State’ at least since the EPRDF/ TPLF led government came to power, i.e. in 199. And since then the nation was divided into 9 ethnically based regional states 2 city administration. Before that the Somali inhabited territory of Ethiopia was divided into various provinces. Therefore, it is important to give the readers background information how the successive regimes in Ethiopia misnamed the Somali regional state in whatever way that serves their political interest. I don’t think it would be right for a website that claims to stand for the democratic value to ignore the reality at the ground. Its political affiliation or vested interest should not have been deterrent for it from seeing the reality. Such types of wrongs have been the particular features of Ethiopia for the last hundred years.

If Ethiopia is to prosper we have to learn from our mistake and build and tolerant and peaceful country where everyone would have equal rights and freedoms. It is important if we learn from our past mistakes and build a better future. If, however, we continue to commit the same mistakes, I am afraid we would be doing the same blunder our forefathers have done; and it would be obvious that we will never see hope or the light at the end of the tunnel. In this writing I would try to depict the history of the regional state.


The monarchy period (1923-1974)

At least at the end of the Imperial time, Ethiopia was divided into 14 administrative provinces. Ethiopian Somali also came under at least three provinces: namely; Haraghe, Bale and Sidamo administrative provinces. The Ethiopian ruling elite to appease the Ogaden clan used to call the hinterland where Ogaden clan inhabit Ogaden region. In whatever way they did not refer the whole Somali inhabited area as ‘Ogaden’. The Imperial period was dominated by the assimilation of Ethiopian population to the mainstream highlander’s culture language and tradition. Amharic was the main instruction media in educational facilities starting from the nursery and primary grade. Most remote part of the Ethiopia people who have never experienced the highlanders’ language, tradition and culture were obliged to accept the dominant cultural imposition. Habasha culture was imposed on them. However, the end of the Monarchical Period in 1974 was expected to usher in different form of governance. The coming into power of military regime dashed the hope of many Ethiopian.


Military regime (1974-1991)

As soon as the military regime took power, it did not change the division of administrative province in Ethiopia. However, after few years, the military regime (1974-1991), came up with new administrative regions and designated the Ogaden inhabited area of Somali Regional State as “ “special autonomous region of Ogaden”. The regime thought it would bring to an end the armed struggle the Ogaden clan waged a war on the regime. To some extent this new partition of the Regional State had brought peace and tranquillity. The military regime, although considered as undemocratic by all its value, made every effort to make sure that the interest of non-ogadeni Somali people are appropriately addressed. As a result, some Somali were included in Dire Dawa Autonomous Administrative Region. Others were included in Eastern Haraghe Administrative region. Also others came under Sidamo Administrative Region.

The current EPRDF/TPLF Regime

However, since the coming into power of EPRDF/TPLF government in 1991, all Somali people that inhabit the region were brought under one administration, known as the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia. This name was adopted by the first regional parliament held in Dire Dawa in 1991-1992. Ogaden is a Somali clan and it would not be appropriate to name the whole Somali inhabited region by one clan. In the previous regimes a part of Southern Ethiopian Nation/nationalities was used to be called as Sidamo, representing the Sidama people. But no longer exist.

Unfortunately, those who want to divide the Somali people and the Ogaden Nationalist continuously want to advance the discredit name “ogaden” and they are seen, heard and read in many websites. I don’t think this would solve the Ethiopian Somali main challenge. I don’t think it would better for the tranquillity of the regional state if the regional state is called what it deserve to be called, i.e. Ethiopian Somali Regional State.

As you know most of the Somali people don’t oppose the previous or current regimes by armed struggle as the Oganden National Liberation Front ONLF does. Rather Ethiopian Somali People are peaceful and they live with the other nation/nationality in cordial term.

The ONLF wages an armed struggle on the Ethiopian government, hindering peace and development in the Regional State. Even in Ethiopian standard, Somali Regional state is one of the least developed Regional States despite huge effort made in the past 23 years to change the picture at the regional level. Significant amount of financial and human resource were invested in the regional state by the Federal Government in order this regional state achieve the aspiration its population dreamed of for hundreds of years. Unfortunately Ethiopian Somali Regional State remains unstable and poor. Basic public services are not available to ordinary folks. Bad governance, nepotism, favouritism, embezzlement and lawlessness are widespread. Recently disagreement has erupted among the few elite leaders within the governing party. The Regional President, Abdi Mohamed Omar, is accused of sympathising with the anti-peace element, because his existence solely depends on the presence of continuous armed struggle. In other words, war is a life line for the current president of Ethiopian Somali Regional State. This seems to be the best interest of senior Tirgrian military General within the Eastern Division.

The Ethiopia Federal Government in Addis Ababa seems to have no alternative policy or plan for Somali Regional State. No one expect from Ethiopian regime in Addis Ababa to come up with strategy to bring peace and democracy in Ethiopian Somali Regional State. Many political experts on the Horn of Africa believe that there is a lack of political leadership in Ethiopia. The current Prime Minister is believed to have no strong political authority to effect change. It is believed that senior military personnel have the most influential power.

The question everyone is asking himself/herself is what Ethiopia could learn from the ‘Black Revolution’ that swept from power the ex-president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, who ruled the country for more than 27 years. Burkina Faso is now under military rule. If the military regime does not put in place credible plan to hold election and return the country to civilian rule, there is a high likelihood of international sanction being imposed on the country, which could have devastating effect on the population. All signs and symptoms for the civil war are evident if the military regime did not relinquish power in peaceful way.

Ethiopia is also having a general election next year. The ruling party has grip on power for more than two decades. Ethiopia is one the most dictatorial regimes in the world. Next year’s election could be a turning point in the last two decades’ EPRDF rule. There is all hallmarks that similar revolution like Burkina Faso could suddenly erupt. If it does, it would definitely be a setback to the Ethiopian future. During the downfall of the monarchical and military regimes in 1974 and 1991 respectively, Ethiopian people were not polarised into ethnic based politics. Now ethincism has reached deep into the core life of every one. That means Ethiopia’s situation   is most precarious than any moment in its history. It would be a set back to the international community that have bankrolled the Ethiopian apartheid regime for more than two decades.

It is not also fair to say that Ethiopian people have to remain silent when their democratic rights and freedom are infringed on daily basis. I think the West must take decisive action against the Ethiopian government so that the latter at least concede to return of democratic value. In today’s world, there are many wars all over the world. It would not be wise to leave alone when another war is developing in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia with its more than 80 nations/ nationality, it could not afford another war.

Personally I think anything that exposes the brutality of current dictatorial regime in Ethiopia is wholeheartedly welcome. I personally acclaim the brain behind this website. But I was shocked and surprised by the way this website wants to represent the Ethiopian Somali Regional State. As you know, there is no a region called Ogaden in Ethiopia. The regional state is inhabited by all Somali clan. Ogaden is one of the Somali clan that inhabit this regional state. It would not be right if we call the Ahmar State ‘Gojjam’ or ‘Gondere’. The bigger names which include all the Amhara is Amhara. By the same token, Ethiopian Somali are not Ogaden. Ogaden is a part of Ethiopia. We have to stop this misconception. If not, I don’t think we would achieve peace and tranquillity we desperately longing for. It is officially called Ethiopian Somali Regional State, every attempt made by the narrow minded few Ogaden have failed. I wonder why you use now and then this name to call the regional state. I don’t think you have made mistake. It is an old political tactic the former regime in particular the monarch used to divide Somali people by denoting Ethiopian Somali Region as Ogaden. I think you would lose your credibility if you don’t critically analysis the material you are publishing. You could only become the voice the people if you adopt an honest and ethical approach that avoids any form of injustice in Ethiopia. If we are fighting against injustice in Ethiopia we should make sure that we are not a part of the oppressive practice.

If you don’t remove the caption on this video in which you claim the Ethiopian Somali regional state as Ogaden, I would start campaign against you as the mouth piece of enemy of the Ethiopian people. It shows that you are simply interested in removing a dictatorial regime and replacing it with a new worst regime.

Chris Brown


The writer uses pseudo name to protect his identity. He can be reached by brownchris740@gmail.com. He welcomes any constructive suggestion and discussion. The writer has no any grudge against Ogaden clan but he would like the progressive Ogaden people to know that it would be important that we Somali in Ethiopia should not be divided into semi state.


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