By: Ahmed Abdi
The notorious Prison locally known as “Jail Ogaden” ,about 80 kilometers Eastern of the city of Harar, has been the scene of repeated atrocities carried out by the Ethiopian prison guards. The Prison, which is jailed about several thousand political inmates that live in unbearable living conditions and systemically starved and beaten .This jail ,with its 20 unclean cells overcrowded with prisoners that experience lack of proper jail food services ,lack of jail exercise yard , and has only two toilets that serve several thousand prisoners ,moreover the Ethiopian guards constantly intimidate, severely torture including beating with strong sticks, electric shock ,and suffocating with pouring buckets of ice water over the heads of the prisoners for confession during the interrogation.
Ogaden, which is home to about 8-10 million Somali ethnic population that lives on its goats, sheep and camels is a dry semi-desert region, with low bushes providing what fodder the animals need. It should be a peaceful nomadic region, but this is a region living in fear. Ethiopian Troops patrol the villages and have bases in the main towns. Over the past 5 years repeated atrocities have been inflicted on the local people, who are accused of supporting the liberation movement, the Ogaden National Liberation front. This is the testimony of former Liyu Police, Abdirahman Sharif Zekeriye, who has since fled from the country. It offers a rare glimpse into a region from which all independent journalists have been banned, and from which international aid agencies are banned.”
“We had to form queues ,whenever we were getting into and out of the cells due to the problems of the overcrowded cells. We had to sit forming queues along family and clan lines in the yard .We knew that a spy was among us because of during the nights, Ethiopian guards used to come and take away selected prisoners,the ones that have lucky were returned back,but those had not,never seen again”, said Mr. Zekeriye that spent 4-years in Jail Ogaden before he became a liyu police personnel.
A large number of political inmates disappeared and still remain unknown whereabouts after they have been driven away from their custody, this comes after rumors spread throughout the city indicate that Western NGOs heading to Jigjiga and they might demand to pay visit the notorious jail Ogaden .
“Whether it ( the disappearance) is related to the rumors or not, we aware that the Ethiopian government has transported a large number of prisoners including my son and his uncle in an unknown location and still missing and we are very concerned about their well-being as my son having a current medical problem while my brother is said to be in a life threatening condition after several hours of sustained beatings by the Ethiopian guards”, said a father that contacted us ,and declined to be named for fear of reprisal.
A news article on the diasporas-run website,Ogaden.com reported the death of 98 inmates in the Ogaden jail in the last couple of weeks alone, citing a source from the website’s reporter and individuals with the Ethiopian Administration in Jigjiga .Most of them died violently and hunger ,the report added.
The Ogaden, which is twice the size of England and Wales together with a population of about 8-10 million have been a region ravaged by famine, droughts, tribal conflicts and successive wars between secessionists and regimes of Ethiopian highlanders.
This Region, an old Italian and British colony borders Djibouti, Oromia, Kenya and Somalia and many of its residents are ethnic Somali Muslims, which later became under Ethiopian colony when Great Britain secretly handed over to Ethiopia in 1954 a decision rejected by the Somali population in Ogaden Region, who have since fought for full independence.