8 comments on “Reflections on a Refugee Response: Dolo Ado

  1. “It’s the details, not the context, that highlight the Ethiopian link in Dolo Ado town. The government administrators, Amharic-speaking and ethnically distinct from the Somali majority. The round, tin-roofed Orthodox church on the edge of town that stubbornly blares Friday morning prayers over the surrounding populace, as though at tacit war with the mosques. License-plates scribbled with hand-drawn Ge’ez script, evidence of the vehicles driven over the border illegally and registered with the grudging acceptance of an administration that knows there are some battles it can’t win.”

    The region is administered by an ethnic Somali party for the past 21 years. The ruling party is a party which sided with Somalian government of Siad Barre. Therefore, this statement of a christian government ruling a Somali region is right.

    African borders are colonial borders. Massai live in Kenya and Tanzanya, Afar live in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Afar, Tigres live in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Turage lives from libya to Mali, Arabs live in Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt, Nubian live in Sudan and Egypt, Fur clans live in Sudan and Chad…etc. It is colonial borders who gave us this borders. Dijiboti is lead by an ethnic Somalis but it is not Somalia. This history is the history of Africa given by people traveled like you like Messiah some years 60 years ago. That is the heart of all our problem. Before your coming Africans were self supporting people for million years. We did not asked you to send us any aid or anything for that matter. You destroyed everything and you gave us a time bomb of weird borders to rule us forever.

    Now you are telling us a hot news. We do not want it. Now you are telling us how the christian are ruling the muslims. Now you are a defender of mosques. When will be the day you will stop your venom????????????????????? We do not need your aid. We have lived for million years without it. We do not need your righteousness. You instill discord and it will grow into a full blown war by your backing. I invite you to read this:


    Thank you

    • Alrighty. Thanks for your spirited contribution. I have replaced the block of text you pasted into the comments thread with the link to the article in question to make it easier to read.

      Ironically, in spite of your assertion that the colonial misadventure is to blame for all problems in Africa, the specific area we are talking about here (Ethiopia and Somalia) are two of the nations least touched by colonialism in the whole continent- the British and the Italians had only brief colonial occupations, relative to the history of those nations, made little headway in imprinting colonial norms on these nations, and to be quite frank with you, the border conflict between Ethiopia and Somalia has far more to do with the long-standing animosity between Ethiopians and Somalis than it does with colonial intervention. When the British initially ‘granted’ Ogaden region to Ethiopia, it was with the expectation that the Somalis there would be autonomous, and when they saw that this was not happening, they attempted to reverse the decision, but Ethiopia refused. It was a deeply misguided initiative in the first place on behalf of the British, but it was Ethiopia that chose to retain the region, essentially as a buffer against its old enemy.

      Even more to the point, I’d have some time for your argument if the war in Somalia today was as a result of border issues. If, for example, it was because there were people of other ethnicities who had been placed inside Somalia by colonial boundaries- the sorts of conflicts we see in DRC, in Rwanda, in Kenya- and many other places. However this isn’t the case. Somalia is the single most ethnically homogenous nation in sub-Saharan Africa. The only divisions are clan and family based, not ethnic, and the majority of the civil war between 1991 and 2006 has been between various clan factions. You can suggest, if you like, that without the involvement of the AU, Kenya, Ethiopia and so forth, that Somalia would have resolved its conflict internally by itself, but there’s absolutely nothing about the current fractions in the domestic political landscape of Somalia right now that suggests this is true. True, perhaps clans aligned with Al Shabaab would hold sway in south central Somalia today if it wasn’t for AMISOM and the international backing of the former TFG. But there is plenty of internal dissent among other clans within south-central Somalia (to say nothing of Puntland and Somaliland, neither of which would accept an AS-led federal administration) who would have maintained low-level warfare against AS, even in the absence of foreign backing.

      I would suggest you bring some critical reasoning to bear on your assumptions, and don’t just spout populist anti-colonial rhetoric out of context. The dynamics within Somalia, and between Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the concept of Greater Somalia, deserve a deeper understanding and acknowledgement. There is some legacy of the colonial period, but slight compared to most other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. There is also some cold-war legacy, the certainly the ongoing conflict today is being exacerbated by foreign intervention (but more by intervention from other African nations than western powers). It is far more complicated than to blame this on the West.

      Likewise the statement “Before your coming Africans were self supporting people for million years” is as much a myth as any argument that post-colonial intervention is saving Africa. ‘Africa’ wasn’t some Garden of Eden prior to colonialism. It was a wide-ranging network of communities and empires that rose and fell; of indigenous wars, natural disasters, conflicts and triumphs- just like every other continent’s history. Whether or not things changed for the better or worse after colonialism is certainly open for debate (and I suspect it is the latter)- but it is laughable to the point of ridicule to imply that everything in the African continent was rosy until the colonists arrived.

      Incidentally, if you choose to read through the post I wrote, you will see that it is a series of observations, made without judgement or partisanship. There is no ‘venom’. There is no telling ‘hot news’. There is no “this one is wrong, this one is right”. I am simply reporting things I experienced. If you choose to spend a little more time on this blog, you will see that I am not an apologist for colonialism- on the contrary, I tend on the whole to agree with the argument that colonialism has caused no end of trouble in the African continent, especially as relates to conflict. I am also not an apologist for aid. Aid is deeply flawed and can be damaging. However, and I’m not sure if you have the capacity to accept this, but not everything in the world is black and white. Aid causes problems, and at the same time prevents peoples’ deaths. So somewhere, there is a middle ground to be found. Again, if you spend time on this blog you will see that I am all about accepting and investigating the complexities of these places, and trying, where appropriate, to find that middle ground. Certainly, to promote understanding, to accept complexities, and to avoid polarization, something I recommend you look into in your literary style.

  2. Thank you for the response and the background history.

    Let me say somethings before coming to conclusion. Since I was a kid and still now this area has suffered from many conflicts, because of colonial boundaries.

    Why the British who have all the wisdom to organize and lead the defeat of Germany give an ethnically Somali region to Ethiopia? Remember the British helped Selassie to come to power and ultimately they have designed our future. The Somali region was given by the British to a christian Ethiopia while it would have been merged with Somalia and Djibouti and Kenyan Somali to create one greater Somalia. This is a time bomb ticking in the region.

    Who disposed Ziad Barre? The Northern Isaack clan who was under British Colony. Today, the Somali-land people who were under British colony are denied their sovereignty by the international community despite having a concrete historical and UN resolutions to its independence. Now the central government is reorganizing and the fight will be with North and South Somalia. This is the result of colonial interference.

    African country concept and European country concept are different. In Africa, Ethnicity is more stronger than nationality. Before the advent of colonization tribes live with their tribal leaders or local leaders. This communities were denied to evolve into a system of administration that fits them.

    Europe to rich its current politically stable stage it has passed many many wars. Ironically, thanks to Hitler they come to their senses and adopt a win win coalition for sustainable peace-with a deep understanding that their future is highly intertwined. Africa should be allowed to do so without foreign interference. you have correctly said that the cold war contributed for the tensions between Ethiopia and Somalia. That is correct. But, what was the reason of their enmity? In the 16th century, the then global power Outoman Turk armed Gurey Mohammed and he take control of the whole of Ethiopia and burned all churches and 90% of Ethiopia’s ancient relics and invaluable scripts. The son of Vasco Da Gamma Christopher Da Gamma come to the aid of Ethiopia and the then christian Ethiopian Kingdom reversed the conquest. From then on the mistrust is there. Egypt wants to use Somalia and permanently destabilize Ethiopia to control Nile. Nile was officially given to Egypt and Ethiopia by the British. The Nile tension is at its height now due to this agreement.

    Yes Africans fight each other before colonization but it is a fight with spear. They used to have traditional conflict resolution mechanism. We are deprived of that.

    Whenever their is a political problem in Africa, all wants to see to the west to solve their internal problem. It should not be so. We should sit down and talk to solve our problems. Our governments are highly subsidized by western governments to subdue, kill and torture us. They do not need our taxes to survive. As long as they serve the global powers interest no body will touch them. They can do whatever they want.

    Regarding aid, I would have told you many things but it is not important. I work in humanitarian organizations. I am adviser for East Africa Countries for many INGOs. What is going on is simply craziness. One genuine thing is the private donor in the west has every positive intention to help the poor and disadvantaged. But the way we do business is in such a way that it kills small business, local skills and it will deprive of us to escape that poverty tarp. On top of that the aid industry is a very big political weapon. Also, it have a very big professional work force who is inherently rent seeker and have a tendency & interest to make the situation perpetually continue. if you are in our world, this is a common wisdom. The smartest Africans in the most important fields like health and agriculture are joining the international expatriate work due to its attractive salary. At home their is no one to work the real works that can make change to the livelihood of communities. Due to ethical concerns I do not want to say anymore. The honest thing is the money of the good hear-ted donor have the ability to solve the problems in developing countries but it is being squandered big time. When I hear the stories of the unemployed in the US, Britain and elsewhere my heart bleed in compassion for them because systematically their money is squandered by their governments.

    I have worked with many international workers. When the new once come from London or Seattle they have this attitude that they are going to solve everything and they have what it takes to do that. It will take them five years to correctly know that the effect of what they did have the exact opposite of what they have intended to do.

    I have been in Dollo Ado doing operational research. What I have found is the opposite of what you have perceived. Before reaching Dollo Ado families used to loss 30 death/day/10000persons. This is shocking. In epidemiology, 2deaths/day/10000 persons in a population will be termed as critical and will be declared as a disastrous. Today, the death rate is 0.5/day/10000 persons. This is typical for any developing country. They are saved at Dollo Ado. That was the place that made me believe how international work is effective.

    Our other surprising finding at Dollo Ado was this refugees are not ethnic Somalis. They are called Adons or Slaves. They are the minorities in Somalia. They were systematically expelled from their lands by the more dominant clans during the famine. In a way this was a systematic purge. they used to have the fertile lands of Jubaland and they are denied that. On top of that, returning is very difficult as their land has changed hands.

    This are some of the responses I have and the reasons that have initiated my response.


  3. Just to show you show global interference affected local politics I wanted to share this. The ideological mother of the US might is the Ultra right fundamental christian. During Bush’s time I remember one of his spokesperson leave his post. The reason is that he said :The Bush Administration looks like a Bible study group than presidential team. This is the team that send military to Iraq despite stiff internal and global opposition. They are lead by prophets and spiritual fathers. Yesterday one of the father release his prophesy from America. I do not believe in any prophesy but I know that many believe it at home. The consequence of this prophecy and the resulting American policy will take us further into a wrong direction:

  4. Pingback: No, Thanks: Any Aid Worker Answers the Question “Where Wouldn’t You Go”? (Daily Prompt) | WanderLust

  5. Dear Global Nomad,

    I am a recent discoverer of your blog. I know I should probably be working, rathering than commenting. But how can I resist:)

    I like you description of Dolo Ado and the refugee response. It has definitely provoked a spirited discussion.

    Not much has changed in Dollo since your post – except for the robust rainy season that began in March. The fine silt covering the vehicles has been replaced with red mud from roads turned muddy and a bit treacherous in places. The new Bahale refugee camp remains what is here in your blog, a nice vision of a hopefully not so distant future…but with little actual physical progress to show. The drought imperative for the refugee crisis has temporarily and cyclically abated, but the insurgent, civil war imperative continues unphased. The only real break is the rain and subsequent agricultural season on the Somalia side which seems to have stemmed refugees and encouraged some refugees to return to plant their crops.

    Leave it to the Somalis to make one realize what a foolish notion borders are. Where the Ethiopian government seeks to create meaning and order through their various hierarchies of rules and regulation, the Somalis seem just as keen to ignore it and exist in their own world of clans and pastoralism. The EPRDF is not a ‘Christian’ government and most Somalis don’t support Al-Shabaab. The Horn of Africa seems to have been unlucky enough to make the transition from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror where as other regions have escaped the grip of proxism and have actually moved forward much faster since the 70’s and 80’s. Let’s leave aside the obvious irony of ethnically and religiously homogenous Somalia being unable to unite…regardless of what extraenous bits remain parts of other countries.

    To blame the crisis and human misery in Dollo Ado as well as Somalia on religion, aid or the west seems to miss the fact that here has been progress in the region – the recent relatively non-violent Kenya election, the fast growing Ethiopian economy and the reviving of some albeit small pockets of southern Somalia. While the economies of the west are sputtering Ethiopia has the fastest growing non-oil economy in Africa and Kenya remains a regional hub. The old debates about colonialism, ethnic conflict and aid-effectiveness seem a bit tired. (Or maybe as a slightly cynical aid worker I’m a bit tired of them).

    I would like to think despite the trajedy of the refugees, that some good will come out of this for them. The camps offer services unavailable in their own country such as education and health care. I think we all hope for a peaceful, prosperous Horn of Africa. Admittedly working to provide relief to refugees is more like putting a finger in the dam rather that is about to break rather than stopping the flood in the first place. But it has to start some where. And what more can we do than tackle the piece of the problem and puzzle that is in front of us?

    I long for the day when there are no 7pm curfews, kidnapping threats and the world doesn’t need to care about what goes on in Dollo, because things are moving along relatively fine. But, who knows how long that will take?

    Okay…now I’ll get back to work


    • WJF- Thanks for your beautiful, eloquent and concise analysis. Very nicely put, and, yes, a spot-on update of where things are at right now in Dolo Ado. I know that many colleagues and agencies are still sitting tight waiting for the various powers that be to reach a conclusion on moving forwards with Bahale (while budgets and donor interests dwindle, and Somalis move back and forth at the whims of security and seasonal rains). I had hoped to be back there this month, but events have taken me a long way away now, and I’m not expecting to return any time soon, which makes me sad, because in a way I struggle to explain (or sit comfortably with), I find a real peace in those desert camp environments. At any rate, I wish you luck, patience & especially safety in light of recent events, and may your work be impactful and rewarding (there is always cause for hope 🙂 ). Thanks for your comment, you’re always welcome.


      PS- Re: ‘spirited discussion’… I really didn’t have it in me to take it any further…

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