By; Mohamed Ali – Human Rights Activist in Sweden.

Hundreds of thousands are displaced following the burning of their homes and the destruction of their villages. Their livestock and other possessions are being confiscated. Their women are subjected to brutal sexual violence on a massive scale as a tool of warfare. Cold-blooded murder is widespread with horrific public executions taking place almost on daily basis.

In case you wonder where this place is, it is not Darfur. It’s a place called Ogaden, located in the Horn of Africa and whose inhabitants are ethnic Somalis colonized by Ethiopia.
Essentially sealed off from the outside world by the Ethiopian government (no doubt to hide the crimes they’re committing in there), grave crimes against humanity are being reported by fleeing refugees in neighboring countries. At the root of this conflict is the issue of self determination.
Alarmed by these reports, the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW), published a comprehensive Report in 2008 titled ´´Collective Punishment, War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden Region of Ethiopia´´. Documented eyewitness accounts in the report detail the crimes committed by the Ethiopian military. These crimes include: deliberate targeting of civilians; torching of villages; confiscation of livestock and property; sexual violence such as the gang rape of young girls; arbitrary arrests and torture in military custody; public executions by strangling or shooting to terrify people; the lynching of nomadic herders.

Furthermore, Ethiopian troops are forcibly relocating the civilian population to urban areas in order to identify rebels seeking refuge in rural villages. By destroying the livelihood of the people and imposing a trade blockade prohibiting commercial traffic, serious food shortages cause many to suffer from malnutrition or die from hunger. Moreover, Ethiopian troops have been preventing the nomads and their livestock from using the nearby water holes and wells, forcing them to trek long distance to access water.
Civilians continue to live under siege, exposed to serious abuses. Human Rights Watch finds the Ethiopian military guilty of violating international humanitarian law. Resorting to inhuman methods of warfare such as collective punishment, hostage-taking, starvation and rape demonstrate that the activities of the Ethiopian military are tantamount to crimes against humanity. To avert international attention and criticism while simultaneously punishing civilians, the Ethiopian government expelled neutral relief agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders from the Ogaden in 2007. Currently, no humanitarian organizations are allowed access to deliver aid. The Ethiopian tyrant Meles Zenawi continues to deny the atrocities committed by his regime and accuses Human Rights Watch of fabricating these reports. Admittedly, most of the evidence primarily consists of eyewitness accounts as major media coverage is prohibited; nonetheless, this does not discount the reality of what is occurring.

Amidst this, the US occupies an instrumental position. As the largest foreign aid donor to Ethiopia, the US has considerable influence over the political and military conduct of the Ethiopia regime. Ethiopia is a key ally to America in its global war on terror.

By backing the brutal regime Meles Zenawi in Ethiopia and favoring it in the region, the US is complicit in enabling crimes against humanity which the regime is committing.
The US should take the initiative by calling for investigations into the ongoing abuses and pressure the Meles Zenawi regime to grant access to media and independent researchers to the region. Moreover, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) has called the Ogaden crisis ´´by far one of the worst´´ human rights tragedies in the world. Furthermore, the Congress has the duty to guarantee that the requirements of the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights, are completely adhered to by making sure Ethiopian military units engaged in human rights violations are not receiving US military assistance. The crimes against humanity need to be stopped. The people of the Ogaden have suffered enough.

Mohamed Ali
Human Rights Activist in Sweden
mali@swedenmail.com

 

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