While fighting continues in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, forces of the Western Somalia Liberation Front have been consolidating their hold on areas captured from Ethiopia.
While fighting continues in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, forces of the Western Somalia Liberation Front have been consolidating their hold on areas captured from Ethiopia. Over the past two months the Somali-backed insurgents have captured most of the Ogaden, leaving Dire Dawa and Harrar as the only two major towns still in Ethiopian hands.
SYNOPSIS: At Kurtunwary in the Ogaden, the Liberation Front has started to restore some normality to the lives of refugees driven out of their homes by the fighting. Western journalists have been taken on a tour of the camp established at Kurtunwary to demonstrate the determination of the Liberation forces to keep a permanent hold on the Ogaden.
Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre has consistently maintained that his government has not been directly involved in the fighting, but Somali support for the Liberation Front was underlined when a native of the Ogaden was appointed to a top government job last week (2 October). Mogadishu Radio reported that Colonel Abdirissaw Mohamed Abubakari was taking charge of a new ministry of local government and rural development. Ethiopia has alleged that regular Somali troops have been taking part in the war.
Until recently the leaders of the Liberation Front have concentrated on showing reporters evidence of their victories over the Ethiopian troops. They took them to the former Ethiopian base of Gara where the remains of several Russian T-34 tanks had been on display.
But now they've turned their attention to projects like the construction of a new school at the Kurtunwary camp. Officials said it was a self-help scheme to give employment to the refugees.
Although these families managed to escape safely from the conflict, thousands of others have been killed or wounded in battles for possession of Jijiga and other towns. Mogadishu radio claimed last week (4 October) that men, women and children were killed when Ethiopian jets deliberately bombed the hospital at Jijiga. Four-inch rockets were fired through the walls of several hospital wards and a 250-bomb landed on houses near the hospital. Another target of the raid, which took place in broad daylight, was the town's market place.
Despite the air raid the Liberation Front has remained in firm control of Jijiga and visiting journalists say their troops have received an unqualified welcome from inhabitants of the Ogaden, who traditionally have had closer cultural ties with Somalia than Ethiopia. Many of them are nomads who usually spend their lives crossing and re-crossing the border between the two countries without interference.
The war has forced large numbers of the nomads to take refuge in the Kurtunwary camp. It could be some time before they can return to their normal way of life.