On August 3rd 2011, Resolve Ogaden Coalition published an open statement warning all oil companies, namely the Chinese Oil and Gas Company PetroTrans, from exploiting the rich natural resources in the disputed and repressed Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.
Nearly a year later, we are pleased to learn that yet another oil company has failed to illegally exploit our regions extensive natural gas fields.
Ethiopia’s Mines Minister revealed earlier this week that the government had indeed revoked PetroTrans’ production-sharing agreement due to lack of investment from PetroTrans.
The Ogaden region remains a hotbed for government repression and human rights violations and has been the center of armed conflict for over a century. The region continues to be a site where journalists, human rights advocates and non-governmental organizations have been denied access. Therefore, it is no surprise that PetroTrans could not fulfill its exploration agreement on the ground.
Nevertheless, the Ethiopian government continues to mislead foreign investors into thinking that region is safe to operate in. Multiple human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have published detailed reports of human rights violations ranging from indiscriminate arrest, torture, rape, looting and the burning of entire villages which have been verified by satellite images produced by Human Rights Watch and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Furthermore, local armed militias created and sponsored by the Ethiopian government have exacerbated the instability and human rights violations in the region. These militias, known by the locals as “Liyuu Police,” are widely known for looting, kidnapping, burning villages’ livestock and inciting inner clan violence. Locals, along with international human rights organizations, have compared “Liyuu Police” to the notorious Janjaweed militias in Darfur who have carried out similar genocidal acts.
In spite of safety concerns and knowledge of the gross human rights violations taking place in the Ogaden region, countless oil and gas exploration companies have and continue to enter ill-advised agreements with the Ethiopian government. More recently, Petra Energia, a Brazil-based petroleum firm, has submitted a proposal for a concession in the Ogaden basin. Resolve Ogaden Coalition advises Petra Energia and all other oil companies to cease all oil exploration operations in the Ogaden. By doing so, Petra Energia can avoid having its name tarnished with profits gained from contested and repressed regions such as the Ogaden.
Lastly, it is imperative that oil companies and foreign investors withhold from carrying out oil exploration activities for as long as the conflict and human rights violations in the Ogaden continue. The Ogaden National Liberation Front, the leading liberation movement in the region, has on numerous occasions stated that until a political resolution to the ongoing conflict is achieved and the right to self determination for Ogaden people is recognized the organization will not allow the regions rich natural resources to be exploited. The people of the Ogaden and Resolve Ogaden Coalition stand behind the Ogaden National Liberation Front’s stance on oil exploration and we will continue to voice our concern.
Ogaden Resolve Coalition.