The SALF of the 1970s was Somalia’s former president Siad Barre’s effort to gain support for establishing a “Greater Somali” through offering assistance to Garris (“Somalia Abo”) against their enemies. The Western Somalia Liberation Front along with the Somali National Army, fought the Ogaden war in order to expand Somalia further west into Ethiopian region. The Garris helped in this effort because in return they received assistance against the armed Boranas. It is documented that the Boranas were armed by the Ethiopian government, and the conflict between Boranas and Garris were instigated from the beginning. Present day borders were divided by previous colonialist before leaving “independent” Africa. Italy annexed the Ogaden region after their conquest of Ethiopia in 1936, and later in 1954 the British returned this land to Ethiopia.
Therefore, it makes no sense why no one has sat down and analyzed the facts in order to restore the peace. Eastern Ethiopia belongs to Ethiopia, no matter how many people call it “Ogadenia”; and that, is the truth. But at the same time, it makes perfect sense that right after acquiring “independence”, Somalis would want to establish a “greater Somalia” further west into Ethiopia. Siad Barre also had the power and the support to pull it off, untill communists states decided to turn their support over to Ethiopia since it better fits their political agenda. It also makes sense why a small group of people (the Garris) who had no way of protecting themselves from constant threats would accept Somalia’s help, knowing that they must return the favor by fighting a war for them.
The way Garris are perceived by the other “Oromo” tribes such as Gabra, Borana, and etc… has a lot to do with the war mentioned above. The Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and the SALF (Garri Liberators) were allies of the Ogaden Liberation since they both had a common enemy, the Ethiopian government. As the old saying goes, my enemy’s enemy is my friend. It is written in a text that after Somalia lost this war, they turned their back on the OLF, and even went as far as to remove the OLF office which was located in Somalia; but the Garris (those who accepted being Somali Abo) were allowed to stay.
In many places it is dictated that the term “Somali Abo” was used in reference to Oromos during that time and specifically the Garris. Garri fighters like Hassan Gorro (Allah yarhamhu), took part in the Somali Abo liberation Front. This term is not used by Garris to refer to themselves but used by Somalis to refer to Garris/Oromos. Many Garri elders who now argue that Garri is Somali, know about the Garri people’s alliance with Somalia leading to the “Somali Abo” label and choose to continue to allow this label to be placed upon them in return of the alliance. They are simply echoing what the movement aimed to convey, and are okay with it because it somehow guarantees security. The Somali Abo movement was created to turn Ethiopian rebel groups into supporters of Somalia. The Garri people who were fighting for their own liberation in Sidamo and Bale, are the only group who still remained as supporters. This support has led Garri people to see themselves as Somali and to be viewed as outcasts by Oromos.