Ogaden ōgä´dān [key], region, SE Ethiopia, bordering on Somalia. It is an arid region, inhabited mainly by Somali pastoral nomads. The region was conquered by Menelik II of Ethiopia in 1891. A clash (Dec. 5, 1934) between Italian and Ethiopian troops at the watering hole of Welwel in the Ogaden was used as a pretext by Italy to begin a war (1935–36) against Ethiopia. Since 1960, Somali nationalists have demanded the union of the Ogaden with Somalia, and there have been violent clashes over the precise boundaries of the Ogaden. In the late 1970s, the Soviet Union, Cuba, South Yemen, and Libya all backed Ethiopian interests in the region, and Somalia withdrew its troops. However, fighting continued intermittently until 1988, when Somalia and Ethiopia signed a nonaggression pact. The war and devastating drought conditions resulted in millions of refugees and acute resettlement problems. Somali insurgents in the Ogaden supported the Ethiopian guerrillas led by Meles Zenawi, but after the guerrilla's success (1991) broke with the Meles government in 1993 over autonomy for the region. Subsequently the region has been the scene of fighting between Ethiopian forces and indigenous Somali insurgents; peace agreements were signed with two groups in 2010.
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