Introduction

The Ogaden is Ethiopia’s dark, dirty secret. It is far from prying international eyes, where almost anything can be done to anyone the government does not like.

The Ogaden was conquered and forcibly incorporated into Ethiopia by Emperor Menelik II in the last quarter of the 19th century. Its Somali speaking, almost exclusively Muslim community, never really accepted an Ethiopian identity. In 1977 it was the scene of an international conflict, as Somali President Siad Barre attempted to wrest the region from Ethiopia. The Soviet Union poured arms and Cuban troops into Ethiopia and the invasion was halted. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has been fighting the Ethiopian government since 1995, and local people have been caught up in the conflict.

The Ethiopian authorities have sealed off the region to international journalists.

As Human Rights Watch wrote as early as 2008: “The Ethiopian government’s reaction to reports of abuses in 2007 has been to deny the allegations, disparage the sources, and actively restrict or control access to the region by journalists, human rights groups, and aid organizations (including by expelling the International Committee of the Red Cross in July 2007)”. [See Annex below] When two Swedes, Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, entered the Ogaden with the ONLF in July 2011 they were captured. The two men were sentenced to 11 years in jail and only freed in September 2012, after appeals for clemency.

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ONA.

 

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