We supported the SNM during the civil war but our status remains bleak since we escaped Ethiopia following the fall of the Megistu Administration” cry out former Ethiopian soldiers in Hargeisa
By: Yusuf M Hasan
Somalilandsun- “Though we have been patient with our quest for a basic life in Somaliland, non support is finally bringing our lives to the untenable.
This is per a number of former members of the Ethiopian Armed forces now resident in Somaliland who served under the Dergue regime of disposed President Mengistu Hailemariam himself a refugee in Zimbabwe.
The former soldiers who are credited with having played a very supportive role to the SNM during its war against the Somalia army of Siyad Barre whose defeat in 1991 led to the official withdrawal of Somaliland from union with Somalia and subsequent proclamation of self rule , have been resident in Hargeisa since collapse of the Dergue regime in 1991.
“For the 26 years we have been refugees in Somaliland our situation has turned from that of refugees seeking safe havens to that of destitution, since we are n other recognized by UNHCR nor availed any support by the Somaliland government” the ex-Ethiopian soldiers in Somaliland welfare committee told Somalilandsun
Queried on reasons behind their none recognition as refugees by UNHCR thence subsequent benefits of protection and financial support the Ex-Dergue soldiers were at pains trying to explain the inexplicable since they have repeatedly pursued the issue with the UNs body in Hargeisa but without any recourse.
“Having failed to elicit any measure of recognition by UNHCR after over a decade of pursuit we decided to approach Somaliland authorities” addd the ex-Dergue soldiers committee
According to documents the former Ethiopian soldiers have approached the government at all levels beginning at the presidency all the way to the ministries of Interior and resettlement but again and despite presidential orders nothing has been done.
Having solicited intervention from government orally the ex-Dergue soldiers submitted a letter of request to president Silanyo in April 2012 with the hopes that being a familiar face during their interaction with the SNM things will be approved expeditiously.
True to their belief and expeditions President Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo was not only very receptive of their plight but sympathetic as well thence orders to his administration for expedited action towards facilitating some form of support and ultimate legalized resettlement of the former thiopian soldiers.
The president Silanyo order to this effect was implemented through the office of his then presidency minster Hirsi Haji Ali who in turn wrote to then minister of interior Mohamed Nur Arale Duur asking that that the presidential order be acted upon
The Hirsi communication to Duur , original in Somali language below read
The Presidency Republic of Somaliland
Ref: JSL/M/WAG/226/C-0205/04/2012. Date: 21/04/2012
To: Honourable Mohamed Nur Arale (Duur)
Minister of Interior
Republic of Somaliland
Following a letter submitted to the president by former Ethiopian soldiers seeking refugee in Somaliland letter herein attached, th head of state has ordered expedited government action towards implementing their requests.
Subsequently your office is urged to implement the presidential orders as pertains the political asylum issue of the former Ethiopian military officers
I am hopeful that relevant action shall be undertaken
Hirsi Haji Ali
Minister of the presidency
Republic of Somaliland
Unfortunately a copy of the initial letter submitted to the president by the ex-Dergue soldiers committee in Somaliland and refereed to by the presidency minister could not be availed
Though any documentary evidence indicating what action the interior minster took could not be availed the issue resurfaced officially a year later in November 2013 at the ministry of Councils coordination, research and Technology .
While we can not ascertain the mandate of this ministry in asylum and resettlement issues and neither have we been able to elicit any response upon query, the Director of public relations at the ministry Abdirizaq Ismail Mohamed in a letter REF: JSL/WXQCSI/WXD/142/2013. dated 10/11/2013 (see original below) and addressed to the minister of interior and cced his director general and minister wrote
“Honourable minister In reference to a letter from the presidency ministry submitted to your office Ref: JSL/M/WAG/226/C-0205/04/2012 and dated 21/04/2012 herein attached, I bring your attention to the fact that nothing has been done as pertains the issue of the ex-Ethiopian soldiers grievances.
Honourable minister owing to the great support according our country during the SNM struggle by these Ex-Ethiopian soldiers, that ensued with reclamation of our country’s sovereignty I hereby ask your office to provide relevant assistance as per the presidential orders to these former colleagues now seeking asylum in our country.I remain hopeful of expedited action “ unquote
Despite the very sympathetic and appealing letter from the coordination and research m story with clear justification not to mention attached presidential orders of April 2012, the issue of the Ex-Dergue Soldiers resurfaced within government corridors in Hargeisa after two year
For some reasons and after 2 years from letter of coordination min story and three from that of the presidency the interior ministry woke up to the urgency of the matter with the Director General taking action with a letter REF/WAG/AG/GUUD/528/15/2015 addressed to the Minister of Rehabilitation and resettlement and cced both the interior minister and his deputy in charge of administration ,and dated 13/09/2015
Quote- sub: Ethiopian Refugees
I herby forward to you these men from Ethiopian who have been in the country for a long time
Since you ministry (read resettlement and rehabilitation) is responsible for refugee issues , we request relevant action as pertains their request -end quote
For some reasons the requested action from the interior ministry of September 2015 and presidential order of April 2012 was not acted upon forcing the now in complete distress ex-Ethiopian soldiers to return to the presidency again.
On the 20th November 2016 the ex-Dergue soldiers once again appealed directly to president Silanyo with a letter in which a copy availed Somalilandsun indicate through an official stamp that it was seen by the president on 3rd December 2016
In the letter below the former Ethiopian soldiers told president Silanyo that “we have no assistance, no health support nor education for our children” we therefore ask you for a final solution to our problems”
Having failed to elicit Any response the now in the last stretch of survival wrote again to the president in January 2017 appealing for the same
We have been unable to verify whether the letter actually reached the president and neither is any documentary proof of subsequent action.
For most might wonder why these former soldiers are in pursuit of support after over two and half decades of residence in Somaliland one needs first appraise on circumstances facing Ethiopians residing in the country.
While lengthily residence on some countries results in one being absorbed as a citizen while children born in that particular country are attain automatic citizenship in Somaliland the law is different thence the ex-Dergue soldiers remain foreigners while their grown up children are stateless here.
Similarly access to pecks of citizenship like jobs, voting rights etc remain elusive not only to those Ethiopians who escaped to Somaliland following the fall of the mengistu Dergue regime 26 years ago this may but their children are also confined to the same, with the only recourse being employment as menial labourers regardless of their educational standards with some having graduated from local universities especially in Hargeisa.
Similarly occasional operations by the immigration department supported the regular police geared towards flushing out illegal migrants usually ends up catching with these ex-Ethiopian military personnel and long term residents of Somaliland
Devoid of any documents either from the UNHCR or the ministry of interior these former soldiers who after assisting these country’s struggle for independence in the 1980s ran expecting access to means of basic livelihood have to depended on security personnel with the various Somaliland forces with whom they operated Together within SNM ranks for release whenever arrested as ill gal migrants.
Speaking to Somalilandsun the former Dergue soldiers say that though ‘We accept our lot in this country, the big worry is what becomes of our children , since they are neither Ethiopians nor Somalilanders”
As for the UNHCR which is the body cha ged with handling refugees the local office s roving Somaliland seems to do things differently for those Ethiopians registered as refugees.
For instance the merge figure of $60 that the UN agency used to paid registered refugees has been ceased without any explanation just as the school for the refugees children it operated in Hargeisa was closed thus throwing almost 1000 children out of school.
These children formerly in school are now to be observed scavenging the many garbage dumps in Hargeisa since their parents can not sustain their needs.
Similarly a large number Ethiopians who have sought r tigers status at the UNHCR offices in Hargeisa are still waiting for either approval or rejection for over ten years
In the meantime life goes on for these in distress Ethiopians more so the Ex-Dergue soldiers as they fight for life while senior officials in government seemingly refuse to act on presidential orders