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par Graham PEEBLES
No matter how tightly truth is tied down, confined and suffocated, she slowly escapes. Seeping out through cracks and openings large and small, illuminating all, revealing the grime and shame, that cowers in the shadows.
The arid Somali (or Ogaden) region of Ethiopia, home to some 5 million ethnic Somalis has been isolated from the world since 2005, when the government imposed a ban on all international media and most humanitarian groups from operating in the area. Human Rights Watch (HRW), report that the government, “has tried to stem the flow of information from the region. Some foreign journalists who have attempted to conduct independent investigations have been arrested and residents and witnesses have been threatened and detained in order to prevent them from speaking out“. Aid workers with the United Nations (UN), Medecines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the International Committee of The Red Cross, plus journalists from a range of western papers, including The New York Times have all had staff expelled and/or detained, by the Ethiopian regime, which speaks of democracy yet does act not in accordance with its own liberal constitution and consistently violates international law, with total impunity.
Under the cover of media darkness together with donor country indifference, the Ethiopian government according to a host of human rights organisations, is committing wide-ranging human rights abuses that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Serious accusations based on accounts relayed by refugees and interviews with Ogaden Somalis on the ground, thatgive, one fears, a hint only of the level of state criminality taking place in the troubled, largely ignored region. Human Rights Watch, make clear the seriousness of the situation, stating that, “tens of thousands of ethnic Somali civilians living in eastern Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State are experiencing serious abuses… Ethiopian troops have forcibly displaced entire rural communities, ordering villagers to leave their homes within a few days or witness their houses being burnt down and possessions destroyed —and risk death”.
The African Rights Monitor (ARM) in their detailed study, conservatively titled "Concerns Over the Ogaden Territory", found, “that the Ethiopian government has systematically and repeatedly arbitrarily detained, tortured and inhumanly degraded the Ogaden people”. Women and children they report, “are raped, sexually assaulted, and killed”. The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) they found, “systematically attacks the women and children as they are the weakest in a civil society” and are unable to defend themselves. Documenting a series of specific cases of violence, Human Rights Watch (28/05/2012) report, “an Ethiopian government-backed paramilitary force [the Liyuu Police] summarily executed 10 men during a March 2012 operation”, Human Rights Watch “interviewed witnesses and relatives of the victims who described witnessing at least 10 summary executions…. The actual number may be higher”. Such accounts as these clearly warrant investigation by independent agencies, and yet they are resolutely ignored. Supporters of the regime know well what is occurring throughout the Ogaden, and yet they remain silent. America –the single biggest donor to the country, with military bases inside Ethiopia from where their deadly drones are launched into Somalia and Yemen– and Britain are close allies –of the Ethiopian government it seems, but not of the Ethiopian people it seems.
Page after page could be filled with detailed accounts of abuse from refugees who have fled the region, human rights groups and members of the Ogaden diaspora. Atrocities meted out to innocent civilians suspected of supporting the ONLF, which Genocide Watch (GW) find, amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity”. Beaten to death, hanged from a tree, tied with wire and held over burning chilies, raped, repeatedly and falsely imprisoned ; brutal, unjustifiable acts, justified by the government as part of a "counter insurgency operation", against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), predictably branded terrorists.