Date: 18th May 2011                                                                        Ref: OHRC/ST2/0511

STATEMENT

Ethiopia: Killing Civilians and Humanitarian Workers in the Ogaden: Unacceptable, Repugnant and Immoral

Although prestigious international and national human rights organizations, have issued several reports about well-documented human rights violations in the Ogaden and elsewhere in Ethiopia by the current Ethiopian government, the international community has remained tight-lipped about those violations for the last nineteen years. Nevertheless, the Ogaden Human Rights Committee has not given up hope of the international community's help to force Ethiopia to honour its commitments to internationally accepted human rights principles. Hence, the OHRC requests and recommends the following:

RECOMMEENDATIONS AND APPEALS:

To: International Community, United Nations, Ethiopian Government and Ogaden National Liberation Front:

For the last sixteen years, aid workers in the Ogaden were abducted, harassed, intimidated and looted at gunpoint and each of the warring sides accused them of helping the other side.

Ethiopian Authorities, who do not like the outside world to know the real situation in the Ogaden, expelled International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) - Doctors without Borders and other International Humanitarian Organizations from the Ogaden, in July 2007. At the time the International Humanitarian Organizations, which operate in some parts of the Ogaden, expressed timidly their concern and apprehension at the Ethiopian government’s depopulation and starvation campaign in the region as well as mismanaging of the humanitarian aid and commandeering their transportation and using it for military purposes.

In April 2011, Mr Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met in Addis Ababa with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and asked him the return of the ICRC delegation to the Ogaden to resume its humanitarian work. But the Ethiopian Prime Minister has refused his request. 

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee deplores the Ethiopian government’s decision to not allow ICRC’s staff to resume its much needed humanitarian work in the Ogaden and demands its reversal as well as allowing more humanitarian and relief organisations to operate in the Ogaden without restrictions, regardless of nationality or religion.

On 14th May 2011, United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) said that one of its drivers had been killed in an ambush by unknown gunmen in an attack that left another staff member wounded. Two other persons were also missing. The incident took place in Galaalshe, Fiiq region.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee (OHRC) is shocked and distressed by the killing and targeting humanitarian workers in the Ogaden and extends its sincere condolences to the family and relatives who lost their loved one in this despicable terror attack, and asks for an independent, transparent and thorough investigation into the circumstances, which led to this human tragedy as well as the immediate and unconstitutional release of the missing two individuals.

The Ogaden Human Rights Committee reiterates its condemnation and disapproval of imposing restrictions on humanitarian organisations’ movements, intimidation and abduction of aid workers as well as targeting civilian population in the Ogaden.

As has been repeatedly documented by the Ogaden Human Rights Committee and international human rights organizations, the state of human rights in the Ogaden has gone from bad to worse in the recent past. The abysmal track record of the Ethiopian Government has been recently aggravated by natural calamities-mostly man made- and senseless wars, which had primarily been caused by the ill-devised policies of the current government.

Today, the situation in the Ogaden is very tense and alarming. The ongoing struggle for self-determination and independence in the Ogaden continues to cause more human suffering and threatens peace and stability in the volatile region of the Horn of Africa.

The Ethiopian government’s scorched earth policy in the Ogaden was in place since early 1992 when the ONLF has called for referendum on self-determination and independence for the Ogaden.

The Ethiopian government’s strategy in the Ogaden is based on; deliberate economic strangulation, political marginalization and use of brutal military force to suppress all   legitimate demands from the population including the right to self-determination.

As a part of the Ethiopian government’s policy of starving out the civilian population in the Ogaden to submission, its army has imposed an economic blockade on many towns and villages in the region. This blockade has caused an enormous human suffering. The most affected areas by the military campaign are: the regions of Dhagaxbuur, Fiiq, Qabridaharre, Wardheer, Godey and some parts of Jigjiga, where many civilians were killed and their villages were depopulated by the government troops and allied militias, modelled on Sudanese Janjaweed militias, known locally as Liyu Police.

Article 54 -Protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population -of the protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 states that "Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motives."

However, in an attempt to restrict people's movements, terrorize the civilian population and stop trade movements, the Ethiopian government has blocked up all commercial roads leading to the main commercial centres in the region. And confiscated lorries carrying food supplies in order to starve out the civilian population. It also depopulated and razed entirely to the ground many villages and hamlets.

There is no doubt that the human rights situation will continue to deteriorate dramatically in the Ogaden unless the international community steps in to stop the inhuman policies of the Ethiopian government in the Ogaden.

The Ogaden conflict is not different from other conflicts in the world, which the international community is involved and committed to resolving as a mediator or facilitator. The last conflict in Africa, which was resolved through negotiation with the help of the international community, was the war in the Southern Sudan. The conflict in the Ogaden deserves the attention and the positive intervention of the international community.

Ogaden Human Rights Committee
www.ogadenrights.org
E-mail: ohrc@ogadenrights.org