Jun 18, 2007

Ethiopian brutality in Ogaden

A recent NYT report sheds light at Ethiopian brutality in Ogaden. Ogaden is the western region of greater Somalia and most of the population, more than 8 million, belong to Ogaden tribe, a branch of Darood tribe. Most Somali tribes also herd their camels across the colonial border between Somalia and Ethiopia. European colonizers, England, Italy and France, decided to cut up Somalia into pieces, of course that had a lot to do with the fact that Somalis are all Muslims. Ethiopia wasn't colonized because it was Christian and was later given as rewarded Ogaden. For more than half a century the people of Ogaden have suffered Ethiopian brutality and a failed Somali state on the other side. In recent years Ethiopian troops increased their brutality of jailing, tortuing and killing young Ogaden men suspected of being ONLF members. Their families have also been punished as well but worst of all is the rape of the rape of women by Ethiopian soldiers.
In village after village, people said they had been brutalized by government troops. They described a widespread and longstanding reign of terror, with Ethiopian soldiers gang-raping women, burning down huts and killing civilians at will. It is the same military that the American government helps train and equip — and provides with prized intelligence.

Anab, a 40-year-old camel herder who was too frightened, like many others, to give her last name, said soldiers took her to a police station, put her in a cell and twisted her nipples with pliers. She said government security forces routinely rounded up young women under the pretext that they were rebel supporters so they could bring them to jail and rape them. “Me, I am old,” she said, “but they raped me, too.”

Asma, 19, who now lives in neighboring Somaliland, said she was stuck in an underground cell for more than six months last year, raped and tortured. “They beat me on the feet and breasts,” she said. She was freed only after her father paid the soldiers ransom, she said, though she did not know how much.

Ambaro, 25, now living in Addis Ababa, said she was gang-raped by five Ethiopian soldiers in January near the town of Fik. She said troops came to her village every night to pluck another young woman. “I’m in pain now, all over my body,” she said. “ I’m worried that I’ll become crazy because of what happened.”

Many Ogaden villagers said that when they tried to bring up abuses with clan chiefs or local authorities, they were told it was better to keep quiet.

Moualin, a rheumy-eyed elder, said Ethiopian troops stormed his village, Sasabene, in January looking for rebels and burned much of it down. “They hit us in the face with the hardest part of their guns,” he said.
The five-pointed star in the Somali flag represents the five parts of greater to Somalia and a call to reunite them (North and South already reunited; Ogaden, Djibouti and north east Kenya). The ONLF has been fighting for years to liberate Ogaden after the Ethiopian government refused to give the region the right to secede
The armed resistance began in 1994, after the Ogaden National Liberation Front, then a political organization, broached the idea of splitting off from Ethiopia. The central government responded by imprisoning Ogadeni leaders, and according to academics and human rights groups, assassinating others. The Ogaden is part of the Somali National Regional State, one of nine ethnic-based states within Ethiopia’s unusual ethnic-based federal system. On paper, all states have the right to secede, if they follow the proper procedures. But it seemed that the government feared that if the Somalis broke away, so too would the Oromos, the Afar and many other ethnic groups pining for a country of their own.
Ethiopian government fears most a strong Somalia next door because they know it will be difficult to hold on to this region. Unfortunately Ethiopian troops are now in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia.


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