Editor’s Note: We would like to share with our esteemed readers a translation of an article co-written by Fosiya Abdulrahman, a lady who has roots in Ogaden, and Kirsten Lundell, a well known Swedish journalist who has written a book “Business in blood and oil: Lundin Petroleum in Africa” about Lundin Oil exploration in Africa, particularly that company’s activities in Ogaden and Sudan. Kirsten writes frequently in the Swedish press about the situation in Ogaden and is an expert on that field. The article appeared in the Debate section of one of Sweden’s premiere newspapers, Aftonbladet. Though the translation may not do justice to the original draft; however, we republish it with minor additions and some omissions to original draft by the authors.

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I’ve thought a lot about the statement Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, made in Almedalen earlier this year, that the Swedish Foreign Ministry had advised against travel to the Ogaden. That is a recommendation for tourists. But to recommend it to journalists is strange.

We all know the Ethiopian government not only forbids journalists from entering the Ogaden territory, but also human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Watch and other NGOs are either expelled or not allowed entrance into the area. This of course means that the Ethiopian government has something to hide.

I have roots in the Ogaden, where Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested. I understand more than well that the Ethiopian government and oil companies want to hide what goes on in there. My own family fled from Ogaden long ago. But since I have my roots there, I followed with keen interest the experiences of  those who fled from there recently and what they have to say about what is going on now.

Take for example my friend, Istahil, who fled in 2009 from one of the area’s largest cities, Qabridahare. She says that when the oil companies from the West came people were moved from areas where it was thought that there might be oil or natural gas. Those that tried to remain in those areas had their homes burned down and forcibly removed. Everything got worse after the Chinese oil workers were killed in the area in April 2007.

Istahil was beaten and imprisoned because the military suspected that she had contacts with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF. They had no proof, but she was nevertheless imprisoned nearly a year before she fled from the country.

Her cousin who lived in a village outside the city of Qabridahare did not manage to escape. He was accused of being a member of the ONLF and subsequently murdered, also without proof. This is the standard accusation when the Ethiopian regime wants to eliminate people they don’t like in Ogaden.

After he was killed the soldiers tied him to the hook of a car. The body was dragged behind the car throughout the hour-long ride to the town and dumped in the center of the city for all to see.

Her cousin’s skin had peeled off and body parts had loosened during the journey. His body was displayed to deter others from cooperating with the rebels. This is standard procedure which is rampantly used by the Ethiopian army in Ogaden in order to frighten people into submission.

Similar events had occurred even before the oil companies came to Istahil’s neighborhood.  In 2005, 20 young men were dragged out of a prison in the city. They were stripped of everything except the under-wears and were executed in the middle of town. When people heard gunfire and ran to the spot to see what happened, the soldiers begun to shot at them causing the death of many more people. Istahil saw this killing spree with her own eyes.

She almost got in trouble when this happened. For those bystanders who showed emotion before the dead were themselves suspected of sympathy for the rebels. When she saw the dead Istahil began to cry. After that she had to hide from the soldiers who noticed her tears and wanted to arrest her.

This oppression was taking place in Ogaden before the oil companies invested in 2006. What has happened is also known among those who live or have relatives in the Ogaden. I do not know if those who carried out the CSR survey for Lundin Petroleum ever talked to people from the neighborhood. But if they did so they should have heard of this event in 2005 and other similar events.

Therefore, I find it very strange that the Foreign Minister expressed himself as he did. It was one of the dumbest things I have ever heard.

Carl Bidlt’s statement is helping those who are committing crimes against humanity in Ogaden and want to hide it from the international community. Therefore I wonder if his warning to Swedish citizens not to travel to Ogaden concerns also the operations of Lundin Oil company which he was once respected member of its board, a company that operated in Ogaden when the ‘the travel warning’ was presumably in place?

Clearly Martin Shibby and Johan Persson did not break a travel warning Lundin Oil company had not broken. There is a conflict of interest here, and the minister has to answer for it.

ONA.

Original Text

 

 

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