This video is called New York Times Video Report on ONLF – Ogaden.
Ethiopia: Ogaden Crackdown Carries High Human Cost
5 July 2007
An intensified counter-insurgency campaign against Somali rebels and their suspected civilian supporters in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region is drawing growing criticism by human rights groups and concern from the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, a staunch ally of Addis Ababa.
The campaign, which some experts date to an April attack by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) on a Chinese oil installation in which 74 people were killed, including nine Chinese, is causing immense suffering by the local Somali population, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) which released a statement on the situation Wednesday.
“Ethiopian troops are destroying villages and property, confiscating livestock and forcing civilians to relocate,” according to Peter Takirambudde, HRW’s Africa director. “Whatever the military strategy behind them, these abuses violate the laws of war.”
But the campaign is also putting additional pressure on Ethiopia’s army at a moment when, much like U.S. troops in Iraq, it appears increasingly bogged down in a low-level guerrilla war in neighbouring Somalia and faces growing tensions along its still-contested border with Eritrea with which it fought a bloody conflict from 1998 to 2000.
Even Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi conceded last week that his government “made a wrong political calculation” when it intervened in Somalia late last year, driving the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) from power in Mogadishu and most of the rest of the country.
Since then, neither the transitional federal government (TFG) nor an African peacekeeping force — for which only about 1,500 Ugandan troops have been deployed so far — has been able to exert control over the capital, leaving an estimated 10,000 Ethiopian troops to maintain order in what most observers see as a deteriorating security situation in which anti-Ethiopian forces are steadily gaining strength.
“Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia has led to more instability and chaos in Somalia, and made Ethiopia more vulnerable in different fronts,” according to Ted Dagne, a Horn of Africa specialist at the Congressional Research Service here. “When your forces deployed on multiple fronts, it definitely weakens your strategic position.”
The Bush administration, which backed Ethiopia’s intervention in Somalia and even carried out several attacks against specific “terrorist” targets in the country since the invasion, has declined to publicly criticise the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign in Ogaden.
At the same time, however, U.S. officials have privately expressed concern about the serious rights abuses, including murders, rapes, and the burning of villages, committed by the army and the possibility that its continuation could attract ICU, which Washington has accused of harbouring al Qaeda militants, and other anti-Ethiopian forces to the Ogaden, effectively transforming what are currently two distinct conflicts into a broader, regional war.
I hope that these unnamed U.S. officials wil express those concerns “about the serious rights abuses, including murders, rapes, and the burning of villages” also publicly. And that they will express them about similar actions by Mr Zenawi’s U.S. armed forces allies in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.
Ogaden update 2013: here.