A true story adapted from an interview Ali Berkie gave recently to a media outlet.
The big refugee camp, Tika, in the Easter African country, Kenya crowded with many refugees who were evicted from various neighbouring countries in general and the populous nation, Ethiopia, in particular. Tika is a famous place which has long given protection to many important politicians, journalists, students, economists, engineers, doctors and others from the iron fists of dictatorial regimes of the horn of Africa. The camp was sectioned into quarters or villages. There was a village, for instance, where Somali refugees were residing. There was also another quarter taken by Ethiopian refugees… No one was expected to come into the quarter of others unless something very important obliged him/her. Otherwise, intervening into others territory often time led to disagreements or conflicts.
What was dismaying or annoying was that the Ethiopian refugees were bounded or divided into their respective ethnic group. Like the reality within their country Ethiopian refugees were also made to divide themselves in their ethnicity. Accordingly, there were various sub-sections of Tigre, Amhara, Guraghe, Oromo, Kembata, Wollita, Sidama… Any Ethiopian from Guraghe ethnic group was not expected to appear in the tents of Oromo. An Amhara refugee purged of his own mother land for political or economic reasons was not welcome in a shelter owned by Tigres, Oromos, Guraghes, Afaris, Sidamas… Oromo refugee was not expected to happen in the tents of Tigre or Guraghe or Amhara or Afaris or vice versa… This is the reflection of the reality in the country.
One day it so happened that a little Ethiopian girl whose origin was Gojjam, Amhara region darted into a shelter. Behind her were many Somali refugees of young men and women. The little girl was like a frightened rabbit being chased by dogs. The furious Somalis armed with knife, clubs and stones looked like tigers which were running after a dik-dik. The little girl knew that the Somalis would cut her flesh in to hundred pieces. She was shivering like a leaf on a tree. She tightened her grip against the big man she collided with when she dashed into his tent. “What is that, my daughter? What are you so afraid of? It looks there is a hyena behind you.” The man inside the tent threw a glance outside…
The little girl was gasping with terror. “They are Somalis… They are going to kill me. The hurled dagger flew by near my ear… abbaba Ali, save me, please!”
The man put the cloth he was stitching sideway and grabbed a thick stick from beneath the mattress spread on the ground. The Somalis gathered before the tent. The big man pulled himself out of the dilapidated tent like a snail and saw the crowded Somalis inquiringly.
“Worria, send the little girl back to us right now! She tucked her fucking head under this shabby canopy after beating our children brutally. She made a grave mistake to do that… Let her out! Hurry up, man! We will slash her to death,” one of the young Somalis said.
“Do you know whom you are talking to, gentle men? Do you know whose camp you intruded in? Let me ask you if you have the slightest knowledge of Ethiopians. Ethiopians are like lions. You don’t dare to touch the mane of a lion and live in peace without paying dearly. This man you see here is an Ethiopian…,” the man said poking his bosom with his index finger, “I am named Ali Berkie… An Ethiopian hero who pierced the damn heads of you Somali invading soldiers. The little one who ran into my canopy is also like a bee… a stinging bee! You cannot do whatever you like against this little Ethiopian. I tell you… you can’t touch the tip of her dress. You can do that on my dead body!? Come on… try me. Get an inch closer if you are man enough!”
“Man, we don’t give a shit to that nonsense story of yours! … No one is interested to hear your battle story. That’s not our business! You better recount the war story to your wife. Now, listen up carefully! Prickle your little ears deafened by explosions in the battle ground. We need you to handover that little bitch to us immediately. She will receive a good punishment from us. Can you hear that? We have no time to spare listening to your nonsense…” The Somalis moved closer to the tent.
“You behave yourselves! I said move back! Can you hear that?”
The Somalis did not move back… All of a sudden, the big guy, Ali Berkie, flogged them all one by one using his heavy stick. His agility was like a tiger. He lashed instantly one on the head… the other on the waist… the other on the leg… A few brought down while many of them ran away. There were still some men fighting back. Ali bounced here and there like a wild cat and cried war song in afan Oromo. Then he spun his stick round him. He was acting like a crazy guy. Then he started again flogging and kicking whomever he got before him. “If you don’t know this man, I will compel you to know him well. Take this…You shit! I told you to keep civil tongue in your stinky mouth!” He winnowed the intruders like a pile of teff. The Somalis could not defend themselves… Some cried and ran back to their camp. Some moved back and hurled stones… Two hours later things have taken different picture.
Other Somalis who were annoyed by the incident marched to Ali’s tent in mass to kill him. They all armed themselves with stick, knives and stones. But before the Somali refugees reached Ali’s tent, Ethiopians have already surrounded them. These Ethiopians who were known to keep themselves within their ethnic shells got together and engulfed the Somali worriers… No one heard a bugle calling them all together. It looked as if they mushroomed from under the ground. They were many in number. Among them were Tigres, Oromos, Amharas, Guraghes, Sidamas, Wollaitas, Kembatas, Afaris, Gedeos and many others. That time many of the invaders must have got up from their bed on their left side. This was a bad omen for them all. They were attacked badly. Many were crying and wailing. Some were calling for deliverance from the hands of the crazy Ethiopians.
Other refugees from different nationalities were stunned by the incident. The conflict has thus been escalated to a big war ignited between refugees drawn from Ethiopia and Somalia. The big refugee camp has become a battle ground. The conflict left seven Somalis dead and many others wounded. Hours later, Kenyan police raided the place and put the conflict under control. Ali was among those Ethiopians who were arrested and sent to prison in Nairobi. While the captives were driven to Nairobi, a police commander who was in charge of the peace restoring mission said to Ali, “Hey, I want to remind you that this is not the same battle you had with the Somali invading force years ago. If you really need a live battle event, please go to Ogaden, in your territory. Don’t make our country a war front. Understand, gentle man?”
Ali was so enraged that his limbs were seen shaking. Then he burst out… “You shut your mouth! … I am not responsible for the problem. Do you know that? Did you make any preliminary investigation on that? … The Somali refugees are behind this problem. You can check for yourself. You go and ask the Somalis themselves. They are the ones who came against us. I have been called names by the Somali invaders. I should not deserve that! …Understand?”
“Do you know that the incident caused loss of human lives? Seven refugees have so far been reported to be killed by your people. How difficult it is to host such worriers like you! I told you, this is not Ogaden. Don’t make a mess here. You find your Ogaden in your territory! Do you understand me?”
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