Ogaden!

Nuruddin Farah, Somali Writer, Novelist, Ogaden.

Nuruddin Farah, Somali Writer, Novelist, Ogaden.

Nuruddin Farah, Somali Writer, Novelist, Ogaden.
Maps, Nuruddin Farah, Somali Writer, Novelist, Ogaden.

Ogaden - Excerpt from Nuruddin Farah's Maps:


In a 1956 speech to the Somalis of the Ogaden, Emperor Haile Selassie said: "Go to schools, my people. For there, you will have a good chance to learn to read and write Amharic. Only then will you be able to take over the various positions in the central government administration.

And remember this: lack of knowledge of Amharic, which is the national language of Ethiopia, will prove a great barrier to economic improvement and individual and communal betterment.

Learn to read and write Amharic. It will do you a lot of good."

Nomadic camps were rounded up and their children taken away to schools in Upper Ethiopia- boys and girls who were barely six years old.

They were sent to different schools in the non-Somali-speaking regions of the country; so they would lose contact with other Somalis and with one another.

Amharic- the language of a minority imposed upon a majority, Arabic- an alien language with its alien concepts and thoughts imposed forcefully upon the mind of a child.

One is not beaten as harshly when one is learning in one's mother-tongue, surely? Does learning come naturally? Do things flow smoothly, then?

The brutal force of the written tradition imposed upon the thinking of one belonging to a non-written tradition? The brutal force of adults imposed upon a child?

I am not sure why I kept the cutting giving the full text of the famous 1956 speech which Emperor Haile Selassie delivered to the people of the Ogaden.

On its margin, I can read Uncle Hilaal's scrawling hand: "It is revolutionary, isn't it, that we vindicate our people's language, culture and justice?"

To vindicate. To be vindictive?

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