Ethiopian army crackdown in Ogaden province

This video is called New York Times Video Report on ONLF – Ogaden.

IPS reports:

Ethiopia: Ogaden Crackdown Carries High Human Cost

5 July 2007

Jim Lobe

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.

19 thoughts on “Ethiopian army crackdown in Ogaden province

  1. Eritrea: Ogaden – An Incident Calling for the TPLF’s Liability for Crime Against Humanity (Asmara)

    28 November 2007
    Posted to the web 29 November 2007


    In addition to the horrific humanitarian crisis in Somalia , the unrest in the Ogaden region is another dangerous development in the Horn region as a result of the US Administration’s erroneous policies.

    Provoked further by the TPLF regime’s ethnic cleansing attacks against the Ogaden people, the prolonged armed struggle in the Ogaden region gained strong momentum and has become a cause for anxiety to the TPLF regime and its masters.

    Frustrated by and unable to withstand the violent and continuous attacks of the opposition forces in Ogaden, the TPLF regime launched a massive military campaign in which it burnt down several villages in the region and displaced thousands of people from their homes. It even went on to block the provision of aid to the region in an attempt to use famine as weapon to wipe out the people. However, the TPLF regime’s resort to massive force and evil tactics of ethnic cleansing has not only failed to weaken the Ogaden people’s just cause but has, on the contrary, fueled it.

    Now that the TPLF regime’s brutality and genocide against the Ogaden people is drawing international attention, instead of learning from their past actions, the regime’s masters seem to be committing mistake after mistake. In raising the aid extended to the TPLF in the name of the Ogaden people from $19 million to $45 million USD, USAID seemed to be giving the regime a pat on the back for its devious actions. For someone who understands the language of these aid agencies, it is clear that in increasing the amount of aid extended to the TPLF regime, while knowing very well to what purpose it is being put to, USAID is encouraging the regime to equally step up its aggression against the Ogaden people.

    As the New York Times had revealed once, in an article quoting WFP employees and managers of other aid agencies, TPLF military officials in Ogaden, together with administrators, had used the food aid to the region to amass personal wealth by selling aid items in the markets and by demanding a 40 dollars payment from each vehicle transporting food aid. The sources had further revealed that TPLF officials had even funneled into their accounts the money provided by the UN for a polio-eradication campaign.

    Although certain quarters are expressing their distress over the humanitarian crisis, the TPLF regime continues to inflict on the Ogaden people by blocking the supply of food aid to the region; their voices have fallen on deaf ears. In distributing the aid that comes for the Ogaden region among its military officials, it is a well known fact that the TPLF regime has been using food aid as the main weapon in the fight against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Some media outlets even revealed instances where TPLF soldiers promised food aid as a compensation to the women they violated. Persecuting the people of Ogaden did not seem to be sufficient for the TPLF; even the animals in the region were not spared from the regime’s brutality. Ample evidences reveal that the TPLF regime deliberately infected the camels in the region with a communicable virus. Food aid has long since been used as a tool to finance wars and conflicts, as well as to cultivate a culture of dependency among peoples; hence the TPLF’s actions against the Ogaden people should not come as a surprise.

    The current crisis in Ogaden is a continuation of the US Administration’s strategy in the Horn and in other parts of the world. The vast amounts of aid extended to the TPLF regime is merely a way of subsidizing the means by which the strategy could succeed. When the genocide in the Ogaden region was put forth before the UN, Washington officials took it upon themselves to speak on behalf of their servant regime and unashamedly claimed that nothing unusual has happened in the region. This fact only reveals that the US Administration was the real architect behind the TPLF regime’s aggression against the Ogaden people. However, such evil collaboration and tactics will not stifle the just cause of the people, but will on the contrary backfire on the architects and perpetrators of the evil strategy; for no amount of force and resources can suppress a just cause!


  2. Ethiopia, Eritrea risk new border war – report
    Wed 18 Jun 2008, 5:51 GMT

    NAIROBI (Reuters) – The armies of feuding Horn of Africa neighbours Ethiopia and Eritrea are “less than a football pitch” apart, risking a catastrophic new war on their border, a think-tank warned on Tuesday.

    The latest in a string of recent international warnings over tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea — who fought a 1998-2000 war that killed at least 70,000 people — came from the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

    “Neither regime wants war at present. Both prefer to keep tensions simmering, giving them an excuse to maintain authoritarian rule,” ICG senior Africa adviser Andebrhan Giorgis said in a report titled “Averting New War.”

    “But a minor border incident or miscalculation could produce a disastrous return to conflict,” the report added. “The troops face each other often at less than a football pitch’s distance.”

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also warned in April that the withdrawal of most of the world body’s 1,700 peacekeepers on the border, following a fuel cutoff by Asmara, risked new hostilities on the 1,000-km (620 mile) frontier.

    Asmara says a November 2007 “virtual demarcation” of the border by a now-defunct independent boundary commission has ended the issue, and Ethiopia must pull its troops back from areas designated to Eritrea.

    Ethiopia says Eritrea is illegally massing troops on the border in a supposedly demilitarised zone, and it wants to discuss the border demarcation further.

    “The departure of the Boundary Commission and the U.N. peacekeepers has made this conflict much more dangerous, removing the means both for dialogue between the parties and for stopping small problems from escalating,” ICG’s Giorgis said.

    Some regional diplomats, however, believe that both sides may be restrained by the prospect of world condemnation, their already stretched economies, and the past cost to both nations in terms of human lives and finances.

    ICG called on Ethiopia to withdraw soldiers from territory awarded to Eritrea by the boundary commission, on Eritrea to leave the Temporary Security Zone, and on the international community to provide “carrots and sticks” for that.

    Both Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki use the border as an excuse to enhance their power and stifle democracy, the report said.

    “The stalemate on the border feeds and, in turn, is fed by growing authoritarianism in both states. The ruling regimes rely on military power and restrictions on civil liberties to retain their dominant positions.”

    ICG said border tensions were “as high as they have ever been” since the war, with “constant shooting incidents and other tense episodes.”

    © Reuters 2008.


  3. See also:

    Ethiopia: Mass Sexual Violence By Troops in Ogaden Region – Witnesses

    Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)

    6 July 2008
    Posted to the web 7 July 2008

    Abdinasir Mohamed Guled

    In its battle against rebels in eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Region, Ethiopia’s army has subjected Somali civilian women to rape in the remote areas of Ethiopia.

    Some sources in the Ogaden region say that the Ethiopian troops have additionally raped female Somali detainees by government soldiers at military bases in Wardheer, Dhagahbur, Kabridahar, Jijiga, Shilabo, Duhun, and Fiiq towns, and many smaller military bases in the conflict-affected zones, indicating that rape is a widespread abuse in the region.

    Some of them were raped in their villages/houses.

    A farmer from Ogaden told that Ethiopian soldiers had strangled his wife to death with a rope; the wife had been nursing the couple’s one-year-old son when she was killed.

    A 25-year-old woman told Shabelle Ethiopian soldiers visited her village each night and picked a new girl to be gang-raped.

    A staff member of Doctors Without Borders said she saw Ethiopian soldiers chasing women and children away from water-wells to flowering shrub areas for rape.

    Ethiopia claims that it’s conducting a counterinsurgency operation in Ogaden.

    The Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist group, murdered more than 70 people at a Chinese-run oil field in the region this past April.

    Many civilians living in the conflict zone are nomads who must move to fresh grazing areas and regional markets to sell their livestock but on their the ethiopian troops rape the women.

    Since mid-2007, Ethiopian forces have imposed a series of measures aimed at cutting off economic support to the ONLF, including a trade blockade on the war-affected region, restricted access to water, food and grazing areas, confiscation of livestock and trade goods, and obstruction of humanitarian assistance.

    In combination with the drought produced by successive poor rains, this “economic war” is threatening the lives of thousands of civilians, yet many of them lack access to food aid due to government manipulation of food distribution.

    “Every night, they took all of us girls to [interrogations]. They would separate us and beat us” Ogadenian woman Fatima Said said.

    “The second time they took me, they raped me. It is hard to talk about, a man who is more powerful than you can do whatever he wants to you, so they violated me and raped me as they wanted. All three of the men raped me, consecutively. Then we were returned to the hole” she lemently said.

    In July 2007 patrolling soldiers from the Garbo base raped two young women on consecutive days as they went to fetch water from wells located a day’s walk from their homes in Fiiq zone.

    The first woman was detained by the soldiers around noon as she left the wells; two soldiers raped her and threw her off a cliff, causing her serious injuries sources said.

    The second woman, who had just given birth to her first child, was detained around the same time the next day, and raped by three soldiers.

    Angry villagers protested by throwing stones at the army encampment. When the soldiers responded with gunfire, the villagers fled.

    The region, which is around 400,000 square kilometres, borders Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia and It is at the heart of a dispute between the Ethiopian government and Somalia’s Islamic rulers.


  4. Fighters capture seven towns

    Ethiopia: Ogaden independence fighters in east Africa have launched an offensive in south-eastern Ethiopia, capturing at least seven towns from government forces.

    The Ogaden National Liberation Front, which is resisting Ethiopian control of the ethnically Somali desert region, claimed its fighters had killed “scores” of Ethiopian soldiers and destroyed several armoured vehicles in the offensive.


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