ETHIOPIA: Adverse Possession…or just Adverse?

I often hear things along the lines of “Ethiopians don’t like Somalis” or “Eritreans don’t like Ethiopians”, so I decided that I would do a little research into the core divisive issues that shape these views. One of the issues that has played a significant role in these relationships relates to the occupation of a region called Ogaden. Check out the article below for more details: 


There are few historical texts written about the people who lived in what is known today as the “Ogaden” region of Ethiopia. Ogaden was part of the Somali Ifat Sultanate* in the 13th and beginning of the 14th centuries AD.  The Ifat Sultanate was succeeded by the Adal Sultanate. There was an ongoing conflict between the Adal Sultanate and the Christian Kingdom of Abyssinia throughout this time. During the first half of the 16th century, most of Abyssinian territory was conquered and came under the rule of Adal.

During the last quarter of the 19th century, the region was conquered by Menelik II of Abyssinia and Ethiopia solidified their occupation by treaties in 1897. In practice, Ethiopia exerted little administrative control east of Jijiga until 1934 when an Anglo-Ethiopian boundary commission attempted to demarcate the treaty boundary. This boundary is still disputed.

The Italians annexed the region to Italian Somaliland in 1936 after their conquest of Ethiopia. Following their conquest of Italian East Africa, the British sought to let the Ogaden be unified with British Somaliland and the former Italian Somaliland, to realize Greater Somalia which was supported by many Ogaden Somalis. Ethiopia unsuccessfully pleaded before the London Conference of the Allied Powers to gain the Ogaden and Eritrea in 1945, but their persistent negotiations and influence from the USA eventually persuaded the British in 1948 to abandon all of the Ogaden except for a small section of land that the British returned to Ethiopia in 1954.


In the late 1970s, internal unrest in the Ogaden resumed. The Western Somali Liberation Front used guerilla tactics to resist Ethiopian rule. Ethiopia and Somalia fought the Ogaden War over control of this region and its peoples.


In 2007, the Ethiopian Army launched a military crackdown in Ogaden after Ogaden rebels killed dozens of civilian staff workers and guards at an Ethiopian Oil field. The main rebel group is the Ogaden National Liberation Front under its Chairman Mohamed O. Osman, which is fighting against the Ethiopian government. Some Somalis who inhabit Ogaden claim that Ethiopian military kills civilians, destroys the livelihood of many of the ethnic Somalis and commits crimes against the nomads in the region. However, a testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs revealed massive brutality and killings by the ONLF rebels, which the Ethiopian government labels “terrorists.”

The extent of this war can’t be established due to a media blockade in the Ogaden region. Some international rights organizations have accused the Ethiopian regime of committing abuses and crimes that “violate laws of war,” as a recent report by the Human Rights Watch indicates. Other reports showed further abuses, bombings and murders carried out by the ONLF rebel group.


*Sultanate: The dynasty and lands ruled by a sultan are referred to as a sultanate


2 thoughts on “ETHIOPIA: Adverse Possession…or just Adverse?

  1. Pingback: Ethiopian army crackdown in Ogaden province | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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