Ogaden Communities in Europe Hold Large Protest Rally in Front of the EU Parliament
Brussels, June 21, 2012 (ONA)
Hundreds of the Ogaden communities across Europe gathered in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium to voice their anger and disappointment at the continued EU aid to the tyrannical Ethiopian regime.
The Ethiopian regime uses the aid it gets from the EU and other donor nations as a ‘weapon of war’ against the civilian population throughoutEthiopiaand Ogaden in particular.
A recent undercover report conducted jointly by the BBC’s Newsnight and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in August 2011 had corroborated this fact and found evidence of abuse of food aid in which “whole communities have been denied basic food, seed and fertilizer for failing to support Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.” These fertilizers and food are purchased with aid money denoted by the EU toEthiopia.
The investigative report has also gathered “evidence of mass detentions and widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings by Ethiopian government forces”. The report concluded that despite evidence of the use of aid as a ‘weapon of war’, Western donors are still “turning a blind eye by continuing to provide aid money” to the oppressive Ethiopian regime.
In Ogaden, the situation is much worse. The Ethiopian regime does not allow journalists – even undercover ones – access to the region. Just recently two Swedish journalists, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, who had attempted to report from Ogaden in July last year, were detained and given 11 years prison sentence. The regime’s troops and allied militia are conducting in Ogaden a massive campaign of extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and displacement, which Human Rights Watch described in its 2008 report as constituting War crimes and Crimes against Humanity.
The UN’s Humanitarian Assessment Mission which had visited the region in 2007 had written in its Report “that food aid was generally being off-loaded along main roads, mainly in major towns, and based on the directions of military convoy leaders”. It is well known fact that the Ethiopian Army uses food aid as a tool to recruit militias and pay their salaries.
There are no independent mechanisms put in place by donors to ascertain the final destination of their aid in Ethiopian. In Ogaden, the Ethiopian army which is accused of starving the people is tasked by the WFP to distribute the food.
This travesty of justice is what members of the Ogaden Communities in Europe are protesting against inBrusselstoday. They are demanding and an end to this practice, which is not benefiting the hungry population inEthiopiabut instead contributing to their misery.
The protestors are holding up banners which read: ‘Stop the aid to the Ethiopian tyrant Meles Zenawi’; ‘No aid without monitoring’; ‘Your money is used to oppress us’. ‘Don’t aid dictator Meles Zenawi; send him tothe Hague’.
One of the organizers of the protest rally we have spoken to said: “We are demanding the EU to hold the Ethiopia regime accountable for the abuse of aid money, especially at a time of deep financial crises inEurope.”
At the end of the demonstration, the protesters handed a petition to EU parliamentarians and requested from them:
- To withhold aid money as long as the Ethiopian regime violates the human rights principles it has signed;
- To send a monitoring mission to Ogaden and investigate the human rights abuses and violations against the civilian population;
- To pressure Ethiopian government to accept an internationally mediated negotiation to end the conflict;
- To give aid directly to the Ogaden people and pressure Ethiopiato allow independent
agencies to manage aid in Ogaden;
- To pressureEthiopiaregime to allow journalists free access to the Ogaden and lift the siege which it has imposed on the region since 2007.
The demonstrators dispersed peacefully and returned to the countries they travelled from with a firm determination to come back again to the EU headquarters until their grievances are addressed.
Ogaden News Agency (ONA)
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