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In Ogaden: The Advent of pen-Taadaaqiis

Abdullahi Dahir
Friday, January 04, 2008


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Meet the ‘Tadaaqiis’ (literally translated as the armed ones) in the nominal Somali Regional State. At first glance, this nomenclature could be deceiving; for it is possible many would assume it portrays either the Tigray Military or the rebel freedom fighters. In its purest form, it could be used for military, paramilitary, militia or armed gangsters. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the regional politics would, however, understand to whom the term is exclusively applied. For the unfamiliar though, let me briefly describe how the term came into prominence and why it is relevant to discuss it now. The Ogaden region has seen a fair share of conflicts and struggle for freedom. Revolts for independence range from the early days of Nasrullah uprising, WSLF and the subsequent Ogaden war to the ongoing rebellion in the region.


It is a fact that millions had suffered in the past and continue to lead miserable lives caught between the legitimate fight for independence by the Ogaden people in the region on the one hand and the attempts to suppress these aspirations consistently employed by successive Ethiopian regimes. As in any other struggles, it is also natural for few traitors to crop up and benefit from the distress of their brothers; and end up in the wrong side of the history books. The ‘Tadaaqiis’ belong to this class of traitors who witness the death, rape and disappearance of Ogaden men and women in exchange for titles, luxurious cars and money. By all account, they are identical in their deeds with the Pablo Escobar’s of Colombia, and the mafia Dons in Mario Puzzo’s “The Godfather”.  While the drug lords of the underground world sell and traffic heroine, hashish, and opium, our mafias in the heartlands of Ogaden trade in human beings.


If by any quirk of fate, you happen to be in the Ogaden region, the sight of young and middle-aged men on top of pick-up trucks, armed with Kalashnikovs, is common. If they are Somali speakers with no military outfits, look no further: you are seeing the Tadaaqiis. But beware of your conclusions. These are the “starters”, who would have to prove themselves over time to become big Tadaaqiis, and sit in palaces not on top of trucks. Proving their loyalty might not come immediate, as they have to dock in as many as “anti-peace elements” and “sympathizers” as possible before they are elevated to the next hierarchy of a vicious cycle of titles. Usually this comes in the form of district head or head of security in the nominal administration of the region. If the military commanders in the area of operations testify to their “courage”, the revered title of “Tagaay” (struggler) would be bestowed upon them. With these acknowledgement comes everything: power, money and impunity.


However, for a lucky Tadaaqii, the gates of “fame” and fortune could open overnight. A notable example is the infamous Tadaaqi from Qabri-bayah, Abdi Dhuub, who elevated high in the ladder of power instantaneously after having helped the ever grateful Tigre’s in the elimination of seven respected community elders. These ones would never have to go to the battlefield. Instead, they present as sacrifice few of their fellow countrymen by “blowing out their covers”. More often than not, the Tigre army does not request for an alibi or conclusive evidences, and the words of the Tadaaqii are taken as enough demonstration of the subject’s guilt. Many agree that the massacre of the seven innocent religious leaders were based on innuendos and conjectures at best. For others like the current head of regional security and justice, Abdi Iley, it took some time and effort to establish himself as one of the top Janjaweeds, as they are widely referred to as of late. Some did even call them Qabaal-weeds, saying they ride Qabaals (pick-up vehicles) not horses; unlike the Janjaweeds in Darfur. A parvenu of immeasurable ignorance, he rose to ranks from cable-carrier boy for the electricity authority in Degahbour town. He has endeared himself to the Tigray military bosses by providing information-correct or incorrect- on whoever he has an issue with. Feeling that is not enough, he frequents bars and drinking with Army commanders. That is as low as you should go down to earn the trust if not the respect of the Woyannes. The man who recruited him, Da’uud or as he prefers to be called Ato Da’uud, is a man filled with vengeance for society as the result of inferiority complexity he suffers from his childhood upbringing. He loathes Somalis and savors when his friends tell him he looks like a Tigre. The current regional president largely owes his position to being married with a Tigrrean woman; and is a big Tadaaqi. These are not, by any means, the only ones; but few. There is no purpose served in providing exhaustive lists of them. So, what do the Taadaaqiis do?


The Tadaaqiis provide the intelligence and direction for the acts of barbarism undertaken by the Tigray Military. The following brutal techniques had been and are still used against Ogaden civilians according to a confidential document released to the UN in 2003: (1) indiscriminate killing of civilians in retaliation for ONLF actions (2) extrajudicial arrests and “robust” interrogation of suspected ONLF supporters and families (3) forced recruitment of informants (4) intimidating elders to surrender names of ONLF members in their respective communities. The Tadaaqiis are the main protagonists in these breaches of all humanitarian laws and are handsomely rewarded for their loyalty in the form of power and privileges. Amassing stolen money is the only philosophy of the dodgy members of this cult. 


If the essence of Tadaaqiism was to wield guns and terrorize people, reserved for the illiterate, it longer is. It has transformed into an ideology of opportunism and treason. It is set to survive as long as the oppressor and the oppressed exist. However, it would likely change colours and forms from time to time adapting to the dynamic nature of the conflict. Testimony to this stands the proliferation of elder (odayaal) Tadaaqiis dubbed Amaakaariis (advisors), educated Tadaaqiis, merchant Tadaaqiis and women Tadaaqiis. With the prevailing system and the continued manipulation by the Tigray militias of the frailty of human nature, Tadaaqiism has a future in the region at least in the short run. Today, it has evolved into a way of life; one that would ultimately lead to perdition.


The current scaling up in the operations of the ONLF, the so-called crackdown by the Tigray militias and the political quagmire the EPRDF government is plunged into; provide ideal breeding ground for the expansion of Tadaaqiism. As a consequence, the practice is increasing and, expectedly, new variants of it are popping up by the day. The latest version is the emergence of pen-Tadaaqiis who became apologists of the Ogaden genocide in their futile effort to defend the moribund Tigray dictatorship. Prominent among them is Abdullahi Khalif Garille. Writing what is usually long and judgmental statements, devoid of logic and reasoning, and laced with curse against the Ogaden people, he often concludes with praises to Meles and his ‘development initiatives’ in the region. His motives are all clear. He would relish the opportunity of being summoned by the nominal regional administration and joining the top Janjeweeds. It only amazes me why it has taken so long for the regime in Addis Ababa to give the man what he fought for. Or perhaps they felt he is more useful there. Having asked few questions about the man, I learned that his father had also been a colonial sympathizer in Kelafo. Well, it is quite atavistic of him to follow suit.


A Mr. Bile, or to call him by his first name- Ahmed Hadi- in US, is also in this category. Although of less calibre and ability, he painstakingly thrives to jot down few sentences as comments in Nazret.com. The lack of coherence in his writings did not disguise his lack of sagacity and outright cruelty towards his own Ogaden people. He purports to be pro-development in the region; but I wonder if he knows that it is hardly achieved by killing civilians and burning villages. I heard he occasionally travels to the region; and that many of his closest family members have been victimised by the TPLF militias; which adds to my utter disbelief and confusion!!! Perhaps a handful of remittances from Jigjiga could supplement his meagre income as a refugee in the US. But will his conscience rest in peace? If he has one, of course! He and his co-editor in EEGGA.com, a young boy with a test for easy life, have to realize their commotion and rubbish misinformation is only embarrassing themselves in the face of the Ogaden people


Pen-Tadaaqiis are as pervasive as ever today and are manifested in the form of educated bureaucrats who espouse subordination doctrine albeit with a higher level of sophistication. Some websites are running a flurry of anti-ONLF articles while less accommodative of others’ views. I wonder if the purpose is to inform people or rather to disorientate and divert attention from what really matters: the ongoing massacres of civilians in Ogaden. Others are busy with the relevance or appropriateness of a particular name of an organization without discussing what vision they have for the Somali people.  Wardheernews, Somalistate, Somaliview, Kilil5, etc should realize readers are mature enough to decipher a pattern in what they usually post.


History and recent events for that matter- including the arrest of Ibrahim Xaad- are vivid enough to teach the Taadaaqiis in all their forms what is in store for them-sooner or later. Fools never learn from history, though. I remember once listening to a song with the title: “what do you learn from history? Apparently Nothing!” The history of mankind is full of men who, driven by ego and greed, inflicted pain on millions only to end up in shame and disgrace; often failing taking history books seriously. Not surprisingly, pen Taadaaqii’s like Garille are not learning their lessons. …Kuwii ka baydhee bahdood ka leexdee boqonta gooyey waa baa’baooda….


Abdullahi Dahir

E-mail: [email protected]

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