Somalia is a mainly Muslim country whose people accepted Islam very early, possibly in the 8th century or less than 200 years after the emergence of Islam. With colonialism, Muslim Somalia was split between France, Italy and Britain. When the rest of Africa gained independence, Somalia was kept divided with the French area becoming Djibouti, a part of British-ruled Somalia went to Kenya (today’s North Eastern Province, where Kenya repressed Muslim Somalis) and Ogaden going to Ethiopia. Despite all these regions being overwhelmingly Somali, they were not allowed to unite with Somalia, a condition made worse recently when US-backed warlords split Somalia further into Somaliland and Puntland.
The area that arguably suffers the most is Ogaden called Western Somalia by Somalis. It covers 400,000 square kilometres. From the 13th century Ogaden was part of Muslim kingdoms until the 19th century. Ethiopia conquered the area in the late 1800’s. In 1936 Italy took it over. In 1948, with US pressure, Britain gave Ogaden to Ethiopia. In the late 1970s, unrest against Ethiopia in Ogaden resumed. Ethiopia and Somalia fought the Ogaden War over this region.
When oil was discovered in Ogaden, the Ethiopian army started cracking down harder on Muslims with civilians being killed and tortured. Numerous international rights organizations accuse Ethiopia of committing abuses, war crimes, of burning villages, pushing nomads off their lands and choking off food supplies. The Ogaden National Liberation Front carries out sporadic attacks on Ethiopian targets.