Ogaden Human Rights Committee







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Human Rights For All

4. HIV/AIDS epidemic and Ethiopian Government's responsibility Article 12 of the ICESCR states:
5. Elections and Political Instability
6.Linguistic Discrimination and Cultural Suppression
7. Clan and ethnic conflicts

9. Local Humanitarian Organizations

1. "The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

2. The steps to be taken by the States Parties to the present Covenant to achieve the full realization of this right shall include those necessary for:

a) The provision for the reduction of the stillbirth-rate and of infant mortality and for the healthy development of the child;
b) The improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene;
c) The prevention, treatment and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases;
d) The creation of conditions, which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness."

Nevertheless, the successive Ethiopian governments were never interested in the welfare of the Somali people in the Ogaden.Their attention focused only on the exploitation of the region's resources for their own gains.
In general there is no adequate medical services in the Ogaden. Before the collapse of the Somali State, in 1991, the population used to go to Somalia for medical treatment as well as education, work and commerce.

Dr. Gargaar, a Somali general practitioner said the Ogaden has one of the highest child mortality rates, lowest immunisation levels and shortest life expectancy in the world. Tuberculosis, malaria and water borne diseases are rampant in this region.
"Before TB and malaria were the two main killers in the Ogaden, but now there is a third killer, which was unknown before and it is HIV/AIDS epidemic. There is neither testing centres nor awareness campaigns to fight this killer disease in the Ogaden," he added.

The Jigjiga Region and its surroundings are the worst affected area by HIV/AIDS virus. A study of 400 pregnant women in the regional capital Jigjiga showed that 19 percent of them were HIV positive.
According to reliable sources more than 3 million Ethiopians are infected with HIV/AIDS, while about 600 Ethiopians are dying from AIDS daily. These numbers do not include the HIV/AIDS victims in the Ogaden and other marginalised regions in the empire-state of Ethiopia.

The Somali people in the Ogaden are very conservative. Sex outside of marriage is strictly forbidden. So, sexually transmitted diseases such as; herpes, gonorrea and syphilis were only confined to the Ethiopian settlers in the region.
Nowadays, the situation has dramatically changed; there is an alarming increase of the women and young girls, who are infected with HIV/AIDS virus after being raped by members of Ethiopian armed forces.

Ms. Dalmar, FGM and AIDS campaigner, in Jigjiga, said, "We could no longer sit by idly, while victims of rape, who are infected with HIV/AIDS are dying like flies, we have to do something to alleviate their sufferings. This killer is spreading like wildfire, we must stop it."

"Our society is a male dominated one. We were fighting against discrimination, illiteracy and female genital mutilation (FGM). And now we have a new front, which needs a vigorous campaign to combat HIV/AIDS," she added.

"In the Ogaden HIV/AIDS virus is being spread by Ethiopian soldiers, who rape women and young girls at will. So, the Ethiopian government, which sends those disease carriers, is squarely responsible for the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS virus in the Somali Region. It is a deliberate act of war aimed at destroying our social fabric. Since, there is no mechanism in the region to control this epidemic, I am afraid it will get out of hand," she concluded.

The Ethiopian government uses rape as a weapon in its war against the ONLF. The Ethiopian troops' commander, in Qabridaharre, told a gathering in the township, "Any woman suspected of harbouring or being a relative of an ONLF member would be raped and then killed."

Ironically, the Ethiopian government, which is responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Ogaden and elsewhere in Ethiopia, through its armed forces, launches appeal after appeal for aid to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases in Ethiopia. In the fight against HIV/AIDS, the current Ethiopian government is part of the problem rather than the solution.

It is the international donor community's duty to help HIV/AIDS victims in the Ogaden directly through international NGOs in order to assure the reach of the aid to the victims; otherwise the Ethiopian government will misuse it as usual.

5. Elections and Political Instability

The Somali people in the Ogaden have never accepted the Ethiopian occupation of their country. Therefore, the national resistance against the foreign occupation has never ceased for more than a century. But its intensity varied from time to time, according to local, regional and international circumstances.

Successive Ethiopian governments' military campaigns to quell the insurgence in the Ogaden had caused enormous human suffering and threaten today peace and stability in the volatile region of the Horn of Africa.

Article l of the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that the right to self -determination is universal and calls upon States to promote the realization of that right and to respect it. The article provides that:

1) "All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

2) All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic cooperation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.

3) The States parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of non-self- governing and trust Territories, shall promote the realization of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations."

Both Haile Selassie and Dergue governments considered the Ogaden as a rebellious region, which must be pacified by military means. The region has been turned into a military garrison with no infrastructure whatsoever.

Razing entire towns to the ground, extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, disappearances, rape of women, confiscating private property, dusk to dawn curfew and martial law were the order of the day.

In May 1991, after Mengistu's downfall, a transitional government was put in place. The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front/Tigray People's Liberation Front (EPRDF/TPLF), which replaced the military junta, presented a new document, which it called "The Transitional Charter". According to this charter, among other things all democratic principles, human rights, and right to self-determination of all nations and nationalities in the empire-state of Ethiopia should be recognized and fully respected. Also the resources of the country and international donations will be shared equitably.

The Somali people in the Ogaden, who have suffered unspeakable injustices and gross human rights violations under successive Ethiopian governments, welcomed whole-heartedly the new Transitional Charter, which was adopted on 22 July 1991.
Political organizations in the Ogaden have decided to be a part of the new evolving political process to pursue the realization of Ogaden people's rights and national aspiration by peaceful and democratic means.

Article 25 of the International Covenant On Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that: "Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:

a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
b) To vote and be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country."

In September 1992, the Ogaden people went to the polls to cast their votes in a free and fair election, for the first time in their long history to elect their district councils and representatives for the regional parliament, so they could administer their own affairs by themselves.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) won a two-third majority of the seats in the newly elected Regional Parliament.
In 1992, the ONLF accused the EPRDF government of masterminding the killing of several ONLF officials, including some members belonging to the Front's Central Committee.

On 21 January 1993, the first session of the new Regional Parliament took place, in Diridhabo. Abdullahi Mohamed Sadi, Siyad Badri Muhamed and Mahdi Ahmed Warsame, have been elected as President, Vice-President and Secretary respectively. Abdullahi and Siyad were from the ONLF, while Mahdi was from Issa and Gurgura Liberation Front (IGLF).

The new regional government laid down the foundations of all necessary institutions such as, courts, administrative organs and the police force to insure law and order.

An ex-member of the first regional government said, " Unfortunately, while the democratically elected administration was busily engaged in building block by block the war ravaged country and tackling with the neglected and crippled economy of the region, the central government in Addis Ababa was undermining all efforts directed to create a viable, thriving economy and working efficient system in the Ogaden."

In June 1993, the regional government accused the central government in Addis Ababa of flagrant interference in the day-to-day affairs of the Ogaden region, an act that contradicts the commitment to regional autonomy and devolution of power to the regions.

The EPRDF/TPLF central government deprived the Ogaden region of its share of the central budget and aid from international community to Ethiopia, obstructed all initiatives and projects deemed necessary for the development of the region as well.

In 1993, the Ethiopian security forces arrested the President, Vice-President and secretary of the Regional Assembly, who were transferred to prison in Addis Ababa. They were accused of embezzlement, an accusation that they rejected strongly. They have been released after ten months without having been charged or tried.

Hassan Jire Qalinle, Ahmed Ali Dahir and Iid Dahir Farah, were elected as President, Vice-president and Secretary respectively.

On 28th January 1994, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, ONLF called for a referendum on self-determination and independence for the Ogaden.

On 12th February 1994, the Ethiopian government sponsored a new satellite party called Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL), which is a version of People's Democratic Organizations (PDO), which exists throughout Ethiopia within the EPRDF framework. The first congress of ESDL was held in Hurso under the patronage of the then prime minister of TGE Tamirat Layne, who appointed a member of the ruling EPRDF coalition as a chairman of the new pro-government party.

On 22nd February 1994, a cold-blooded massacre took place in the town of Wardheer, where more than 81 unarmed civilians were killed by EPRDF/TPLF militias, who tried to kill or capture alive the chairman of the ONLF Mr. Ibrahim Abdullah Mohamed, who was addressing at the time a peaceful rally in the centre of the town.

" Since that incident the region has been a virtually closed military zone," the ex-member of the former regional government told OHRC.

On 17th April 1994, the EPRDF/TPLF government launched a large-scale military offensive against ONLF positions and detained many suspected supporters of ONLF.

On 28th April l994, at a press conference in Addis Ababa, the then TPLF defence minister Siye Abraha claimed that all resistance movements in the Ogaden had been destroyed and stamped out.

In a petition addressed to the president of the TGE, the elders of the Ogaden asked the Ethiopian government to stop the military offensive against the Ogaden people, and seek a peaceful dialogue to resolve the conflict, instead of opting for a military solution, which complicates the situation.

On May 10th 1994, the Regional Assembly passed a unanimous resolution in accordance with the Transitional Charter, demanding a referendum on self-determination and independence for the Ogaden people, under the auspices of international and regional bodies such as United Nations, Organization of African Unity, European Union, and other independent non-governmental organizations.

The Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa reacted swiftly and severely by overthrowing and virtually disbanding all democratically elected national institutions in the Ogaden, including the Regional Parliament.

On 30th May 1994, like their predecessors, the president of the Regional Parliament, vice-president and several members of the parliament (MPs), were arrested and transferred to prison in Addis Ababa. Mass arrests and indiscriminate killings also took place.

The Ethiopian government appointed Abdirahman Muhumed Qani, Ahmed Makahil Hussein and Iid Dahir Farah as President, Vice-president and Secretary respectively.

On 05th June 1994, a constitutional assembly dominated by EPRDF/TPLF has been elected in an election boycotted by non-EPRDF/TPLF parties, including the ONLF.

In July 1994, the central government has moved the regional capital from Godey to Jigjiga, which is closer to Addis Ababa.

In December 1994, the president of the Regional Government Abdirahman Muhumed Qani has been removed. His deputy Ahmed Makahil Hussein was appointed as new president by the central government

On 8th December 1994, the Constituent Assembly adopted and ratified the new Permanent Ethiopian Constitution.

Article 1 of the Ethiopian Constitution states that:
1. "Every citizen has the right and the opportunity, without any discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion:
a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely chosen representatives.
b) To vote and to be elected to any office at all levels of government. Elections shall be universal suffrage and secret ballot in order to ensure the free expression of the will of the electorate.
c) Any Ethiopian citizen who has reached the age of eighteen shall have the legal right to vote.
2. Participation in political parties, labour unions, trade organizations, employer and professional associations shall be free and accessible to those who meet the general and special requirements of the organization.
3. Elections to positions of responsibility within the organizations referred to under sub-article 2 of this article shall be conducted in accordance with free and democratic procedures.
4. The provisions of sub-articles 2 and 3 of this article shall apply to civic organizations which significantly affect the public interest."

On 25th January 1995, the EPRDF government hastily arranged a meeting in the town of Qabridaharre to convince the ONLF to participate in the upcoming federal and regional elections. The meeting, which was chaired by the then president Meles Zenawi (the current prime minister), failed when each side refused to compromise.

On 05th May 1995, elections in the Ogaden were postponed until May 27th because of logistical and security problems.

The ONLF, had broken off all contacts with the EPRDF/TPLF government, closed down its office in Addis Ababa and boycotted elections.

On 17th May 1995, in Harar, Ethiopian government collected a group of dismissed and disgruntled former ONLF members, and formed its version of ONLF and called it "pro-peace ONLF", headed by Bashir Abdi Hassan. He is now living in Germany as a refugee.

An ex-member of the group said, " We were collected from our residences in the dead of night by Ethiopian security forces under the orders of Meles Zenawi, and told to read a prepared statement before the local press in the next day. The government wanted to use us as a propaganda tool for the upcoming national and regional elections, which were boycotted by legitimate ONLF. So, we declared we that were going to participate in the upcoming elections. It was a senseless joke. We did what we did out of fear. We had to obey the government orders in order to save our lives."

In July 1995, the Ethiopian government removed Ahmed Makahil Hussein from the presidency of the regional government. At the time no reason was given for his dismissal. In September 1995, he was arrested, and remained incommunicado since May 1997, when he was brought before the regional court and charged with inciting armed rebellion. He was released in January 1998.

In July 1995, the central government nominated Iid Dahir Farah, Abdullahi Hassan and Ahmed Ibrahim, as President, Vice-president and Secretary respectively.

On 04th November 1995, 7 MPs of the Regional Parliament were arrested because of alleged sympathy with ONLF.

On 06th July 1996, the ONLF and the OLF declared in a joint statement their intention to coordinate their diplomatic, political and military activities, and called for a referendum on self-determination and independence for their respective regions.

On 06th December 1996, Abdullahi Hassan, the vice-president of the Regional Government was dismissed from his political and party posts. Five other pro-government ESDL members were issued warnings. Mahdi Ayub Guled, as vice-president, replaced Abdullahi Hassan.

On 27th September 1997, the Executive Committee of the Pro-EPRDF Regional Government in Jigjiga ousted its President Iid Dahir. He was accused of corruption and maladministration. The Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi intervened in favour of the dismissed Regional Government President, and ordered his immediate reinstatement. Jigjiga residents marched peacefully through the streets of the town to express their support for the removal of the Regional President. The police stood on the sidelines and did not intervene to disperse the demonstrators. The police commissioner, Yonis Abdullahi was dismissed.

In the wake of the political turmoil in Jigjiga, 14 members of the Regional Parliament and Executive Committee were detained without charge or trial in October 1997.Among detainees were, Mahdi Ayub Guled, MP and vice-president of the Regional Assembly and Mohamed Adan Bile, MP and Secretary of the Regional Assembly. They were accused of staging an unconstitutional coup by deposing Iid Dahir Farah and replacing him by Mahdi Ayub Guled.

In October 1997, Iid Dahir Farah was removed officially and replaced by Khadar Moalin Ali as president of the Regional Government, while Reyale Hamud Ahmed, was chosen as his deputy. Later Iid Dahir Farah was detained and accused of corruption and embezzlement.

On 12th December 1997, the crisis in the pro-government ESDL took a new turn with the dismissal of 16 ESDL members, including the Secretary General. The Party's popularity among the people of Jigjiga reached its lowest point.

The power struggle between the former Minister of Transport and Communications Dr.Abdulmajid Hussein and current Minister of Mines Mohamoud Dirir over the meagre resources of the region and the leadership of the Party has been concluded in favour of the latter. Dr. Abdulmajid Hussein lost his ministerial post because he neither succeeded in pacifying the Somali people in the Ogaden nor in making them amenable to the Ethiopian government.

On 28th June 1998, the government has formed a new satellite party called Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP) to replace the defunct ESDL.

The formation of the SPDP was not well received by the vast majority of the Somali People in the Ogaden. A Somali elder who did not want to be identified told the OHRC, "There is no difference at all. Corruption is rampant as before and bickering among the various factions is the norm of the day. They wanted to recycle the ESDL but they were not successful. It was a total failure. Everyone knows that the ESDL and the SPDP are the two sides of the same coin."

On 27th October 1999, after two years of incommunicado detention 14 MPs were sentenced each to 3 years of imprisonment without proper legal proceedings.

On 14th May 2000, elections were held in Ethiopia, but as is usual with Ethiopian government the elections in the Ogaden were postponed until August 2000, because of logistical and security problems.

In their joint statement, on 16 May 2000, The ONLF, OLF and SLF said, "Though the international community gave deaf ears, all of these organizations (ONLF, OLF and SLF) did not stop their appeal and alarm that the regime is not representing the peoples in Ethiopia. Despite such a legitimate cry, the regime conducted the so-called election in 1995. Once again it is conducting similar election the result of which had been already determined. We know now that the TPLF regime shall become the undisputed winner. In fact it is not only agonizing, but also disturbing minds of the silenced majority in Ethiopia, that the current election took place in the middle of war and famine situation."

The ONLF boycotted the election and urged its supporters not to participate in it. However, a group of independent individuals decided to participate in the Regional and Federal elections in Qabridaharre Region. Among them were Abdifatah Mursal Shil, Shacur Faysal Abdullahi, Hurre Abdi Adar, Mohamed Omar Jire, Mohamoud Abdi Janbad, and Abdirsak Mohamoud Arab. They were told not to run against government candidates, not to campaign but support government nominees.

On 18th August 2000, Ethiopian government forces told the independent candidates, who were going to Qabridaharre surroundings that all roads leading to the nearby villages were blocked. They instructed them to drive on only one road, which was mined already by them. At Gabagabo village their vehicle hit a landmine. Abdifatah Mursal Shil and Sha'ur Faysal Abdullahi, were instantly Killed, while Hurre Abdi Adar, Mohamed Omar Jire, Mohamoud Abdi Janbad, Abdirasak Mohamoud Arab, Abdirahman Mohamoud Arab and their driver sustained serious injuries. Abdirazak's legs were amputated.

The Ethiopian government used its military barracks as polling centres. There were neither independent observers nor appropriate electoral system.

On 06th October 2000, the Ethiopian government dismissed the president of the Regional Government Khadar Moalin Ali, and appointed Abdirashid Dulane Rafle, Adan Abdullahi Qalib and Suldan Ibrahim as new Regional President, vice-president and secretary respectively.

In February 2001, Somali People's Democratic Party (SPDP), the pro-government party, which replaced the ESDL, sacked 10 members of its central committee for alleged corruption. Like its predecessor the SPDP has been plagued by disunity, disorganization and infighting.

A member of the SPDP who spoke on condition of anonymity told the OHRC, "This party was founded and imposed upon us by the central government in Addis Ababa. It is in chaos because it is full of contradictions in all aspects. The party is run by a group of ex-communists who did not breakaway from their communist ideology headed by Mohamoud Dirir. No one can express his views freely. Many MPs were dismissed or detained when they expressed their disapproval of the way the regional affairs are being run by Mohamoud Dirir and his narrow clique."

"The scale of corruption and maladministration in the region is now worse than ever. Funds allocated for development projects and for routine Regional Government functions are misappropriated by EPRDF/TPLF officials and their collaborators in the Party," he added.

On April 10th 2001, the Ethiopian government issued a discriminatory decree banning issuance of passports and other official documents to all ethnic Somalis.
In 2001, Ethiopian authorities closed the border between the Ogaden and Somalia. As a result of the closure there have been sharp rises in local food prices and livestock herds have been sold at low prices after Gulf Arab States banned importing livestock from the region.

On January 8th 2002, a large demonstration took place, in Jigjiga. The demonstrators, who converged on the grounds of the soccer stadium, expressed their anger about lack of development, democracy, rule of law and the closure of the border with Somalia, which caused the rise of the price of the basic necessities including foodstuffs. Many demonstrators were beaten and detained. Most of the detainees were students.

On 14th January 2002, Abdirashid Dulane Rafle dismissed Adan Abdullahi Qalib, Abdi Ali Shagah and Abdi Adan, Regional Vice-President, Head of Regional Planning Department and Head of Regional Parliament's Social affairs Committee respectively.
In February 2002, according to the pro-government Walta Information Centre, Mohamoud Dirir, Abdulmajid Hussein and Abdirashid Dulane admitted making some errors. Abdulmajid Hussein said, "We have failed in a number of cases. We have failed to keep pace with our brothers and sisters in the country. Yes, we have failed to organise the people and make them benefit from development activities."

Abdulmajid and his colleagues admitted running after their personal and group egos. They also admitted aggravating clan conflicts in the region. "We understand that we have abused the people's legitimate rights to fulfil our individual and group interests," they said. They confessed at Meles Zenawi's office in Addis Ababa.

However, Abdulmajid Hussein and Mohamoud Dirir did not put aside their personal animosities and interests in order to enable the Somali people in the Ogaden to exercise their inherent democratic rights.
In April 2002, after months of internal power struggle among the political hierarchy in the pro-government SPDP, Abdi Jibril has been appointed as deputy to Abdirashid Dulane the Regional President.

On July 31st 2002, Khadar Moalin Ali, was detained in Jigjiga. At the time no reason was given for his detention. But according to the rumours circulated by government agents, he was accused of corruption and favouritism. He was released after 9 months of detention without charge or trial, on 26 April 2003.

In November 2002, the political chaos in Jigjiga took a new turn with the emergence of two pro-government competing groups, one headed by Mohamoud Dirir and another by Abdirashid Dulane. The power struggle between the two groups ended with the ousting of the Speaker of the Regional Parliament Abdirahman Bade Abdi, in January 2003. Abdirahman spearheaded the efforts directed at overthrowing the Regional President at the time. Abdikarim Qalinle Kahin replaced him, as Speaker of the Regional Parliament.
On February 26th, 2003, in Shiniile Region, all members of the regional administration were dismissed.

On May 10th 2003, seven high-ranking Regional Government officials were sacked. They include, Abdikarim Qalinle Kahin, Ali Yusuf Isse, Hamud Fille and Madina Mohamed Hassan, Speaker of the Regional Parliament, Mayor of Jigjiga, Deputy Speaker of the Regional Parliament and ruling Party's Secretary respectively.
On May 20th 2003, the pro-government SPDP dismissed 17 MPs, 14 of them were accused of working in Somalia and acquisition of Somali nationality, while other 3 parliamentarians were accused of having contacts with the ONLF.
The number of MPs, who were arbitrarily dismissed between August 2002 and May 2003, were more than 51 MPs.

On July 10th 2003, Ethiopian Parliament adopted a new law giving the central government a free hand to intervene in regional states when national security, constitution and human rights are at stake.
A member of the Regional Government in Jigjiga, who did not like to be identified, said we never had a free regional government here. "The intervention of the central government in Addis Ababa is already there through its representatives and visible military presence. They have no need to enact such a law. The rhetoric of self-government has not yet been translated into practice, certainly for the Somali Region," he added.
Another official who also spoke on condition of anonymity said we are accountable to the central government's representatives and the army. "We have never been accountable to our people. There is flagrant interference in the day-to-day affairs of the Somali region, an act that contradicts the commitment to regional autonomy and devolution of power to the regions as enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution. We do not have a say in decisions affecting our lives. We want our people to be in full command of their own affairs like any other people in the world," he stated.

On July 21st 2003, Abdirashid Dulane Rafle, the Regional President was removed from office. His deputy Abdi Jibril replaced him as acting Regional President. Abdirashid was accused of not doing enough to quell the armed insurgence in the Ogaden.

Abdi Jibril is the eighth Regional President since 1992. None of his predecessors resigned from office or completed his term, but all of them were removed from office by the central government through its representatives in the Ogaden, namely Berhanu Jemberie and Gebre Wahid Giorgis, regional coordinator from Prime Minister's office and Regional President advisor from Prime Minister's office respectively. Both of them are from Tigray, Ethiopian Prime Minister's native land.

An elder commenting on dismissal of members of the Regional Parliament and Regional President's removal from office recently said, " Nobody cries for them, they were imposed upon us, they did nothing for us, they were only executing the orders which they got from their masters in Addis Ababa. This is the fate of anyone who has no mandate from his people to govern. "

On July 25th 2003, the regional budget for the fiscal year 2003-2004 was released. It is less than 87 million Ethiopian Birr than last year's one. The Ethiopian government has decreased budget allocations for three marginalised regions in the empire-state of Ethiopia, namely the Ogaden (Somali Region), Afar Region and Benishangul-Gumuz.
An official in the Regional Government said our people are overtaxed and our region is one of the least developed, neglected and marginalised regions in Ethiopia. " The region needs more funds for development projects. There are no hospitals, no schools, no roads, and no running water," he said.

Since the arrival of the EPRDF/TPLF government in Ethiopia the Somali Region (the Ogaden) has never used properly its annual budget because central government's representatives and their local collaborators have misappropriated most of it. And the rest of the budget has been returned back to Addis Ababa every year for an unknown reason.
Some regions like Tigray-the homeland of the ruling elite-used to receive a budget higher than its population and fiscal need to the detriment of the marginalised regions

6.Linguistic Discrimination and Cultural Suppression

Article 5 sub-articles 1 and 2 of the Ethiopian Constitution state that: "All Ethiopian languages shall enjoy equal state of recognition. Each member of the Federation shall determine its own working language."

However, contrary to the letter and spirit of its constitution the Ethiopian government has told the successive Regional Governments not to employ non-Amharic speakers.
Somalis inhabit the Ogaden, and their mother tongue is Somali. And therefore they have nothing to do with Amharic, which is spoken by Amhara in the highlands. They consider it as an alien language, which represents colonization and foreign domination.
Many qualified Somali Ogadenis were denied the right to work under the pretext of holding non Ethiopian diplomas or degrees.

In May 2003, the Ethiopian Parliament has adopted a discriminatory resolution designed to prevent ethnic Somalis to hold any post whatsoever in the regional or federal government. The infamous resolution stipulates among other things; the dismissal of any individual, who worked for foreign government, had another nationality and had non-Amharic education.

Haile Selassie's government built in the Ogaden few elementary schools to meet the educational needs of the Ethiopian soldiers' children in the area. The medium of instruction was Amharic, which was unknown to Somalis, who preferred English for their children's education.

Traditionally, Somalis in the Ogaden went to Somalia for education and work, because they did not get adequate education and work opportunities in their homeland.
Somalis in the Ogaden are the poorest, least educated, most unemployed, most persecuted and most jailed of Ethiopians. They are disenfranchised, downtrodden minority in the empire-state of Ethiopia.
7. Clan and ethnic conflicts

Since the arrival of the EPRDF/TPLF government in Ethiopia, in 1991, tribal and ethnic conflicts are common phenomena. In many cases, the government orchestrates these conflicts, which claim many innocent lives to serve its political agenda in the conflict area(s).

An elder, who asked not to be named, said Ethiopian government's policy of keeping different ethnics and clans divided by cultivating distrust and hatred among them has not changed. "The EPRDF/TPLF government in Addis Ababa is deliberately using colonial tactics of divide and rule by playing off one ethnic group or clan against another," he added.

On September 10th 1994, in Qubi, Western Ogadenia, 17 Somalian citizens, were massacred by OPDO, an Oromo group affiliated with EPRDF/TPLF ruling coalition in Ethiopia. According to reliable sources this massacre has been encouraged by the Ethiopian government to deepen the dispute between the two communities over the ownership of some districts and the Somali town of Diri-Dhabo (Dire Dawa).
Fortunately, the Somali community has understood the Ethiopian government's sinister designs and acted in a rational manner by inviting the Oromo community to have a peaceful dialogue in order to solve peacefully all outstanding issues between the two brotherly communities.

In September and December 2001, violent ethnic clashes between Somali and Oromo tribesmen have left at least 130 people dead and almost 400 wounded. The fighting, which took place in the border areas between the Somali State and the Oromo State, broke out between members of the ethnic Somali Garre and the ethnic Oromo Borana. The clashes were triggered by dispute over water points and grazing rights, but according to the elders in the area the Ethiopian government did nothing to stop the bloodshed.

In December 2002, tribal fighting has claimed the lives of more than 80 nomads. The clashes, which occurred in Salaxaad area, were manipulated by the Ethiopian government, which withdrew its forces from the area, while the clashes were taking place. Another ethnic fighting broke out between Somali tribesmen and Afar pastoralists resulting in the death of as many as 40 people.
In July 2003, a clan-based conflict has erupted in Nus-Dariiqa area. The bloody conflict has brought the two clans, in Qorraxey Region, to the negotiation table to discuss how to stop the carnage unleashed by federal and local tyrants controlling power in Addis Ababa and Jigjiga.

On July 23rd 2003, in Qabridaharre, 16 Community Elders, who were involved in mediation process to solve the conflict, which claimed many lives were detained by Ethiopian authorities. According to a community elder, who preferred not to be named said they (Ethiopian government) asked us to stop all mediation efforts because simply they do not want the bloodshed to be stopped for reasons only known to them.
On August 04th 2003, in Birqod and Qabridaharre, another group of clan elders were detained. They were also involved in mediation efforts to solve the conflict, which took place in Nus-Dariiqa area.

In November 2003, violent ethnic clashes near Bardoodo, Ma'eyso District, have left at least 40 people dead and several others injured, according to reliable reports received by OHRC. Hundreds of families have fled their homes after skirmishes between Somalis and Ormos erupted in the area.

Latest tribal conflicts took place in December 2003 and in January 2004, in Dhagaxbuur and Wardheer areas respectively. As result of those violent tribal clashes at least 50 people have been killed and dozens were wounded.

"We have our traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. We want peace to prevail in our region but this government is not allowing us to carry out our responsibilities as clan elders. It wants our people to kill each other," he said.

Clashes between tribes were usually resolved through clan elders, who would arrange for Diya (blood money) to be paid in the form, which they deem appropriate if tribesmen had been killed.

"Since its arrival in 1991, this government has never resolved a clan or ethnic conflict. We are alarmed at the increasing number of ethnic and clan conflicts in our region and the indifference of the EPRDF/TPLF central government in Addis Ababa and its satellite Regional Government in Jigjiga," he concluded.


In the empire-state of Ethiopia, drought, famine, war and ill-conceived policies brought millions to the brink of starvation in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and the beginning of the new millennium.

In August 1999, the Ethiopian government, which spent more than a million dollars a day on the war with Eritrea, internal wars in the Ogaden and Oromia and its invasions into Southern Somalia, asked the international community for an urgent humanitarian aid to feed five million Ethiopians facing starvation mainly in Northern Ethiopia (in Tigray the homeland of the ruling party in Ethiopia).

On 30th March 2000, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, asked the international community for an urgent humanitarian aid and a long term aid to feed and rehabilitate eight million Ethiopians facing starvation in different parts of the empire-state of Ethiopia.

In 2000, the Ogaden region was hit by the worst drought in a decade. The prolonged drought caused a mass starvation and breakout of epidemics related to malnutrition and bad sanitation. In the worst drought-stricken areas, thousands of people and hundreds of thousands of animals starved to death. The Ethiopian government, which was in war with Eritrea, did nothing to save the lives of the drought victims and their animals, which are the main source of the livelihood for millions of the Ogaden people. (See Press Release: Ogaden: Dozens of People and Thousands of Animals Starve to Death on a Daily Basis Amid International Lack of Attention ref: OHRC/05/00).

For the last ten years, the rainy seasons failed or there was not enough rainfall in the Ogaden. Water is scarce and dear. Whenever there is scarcity of water, the people move with their animals beside water holes, ponds and reservoirs. Many water reservoirs and tankers owned by individuals were confiscated by the armed forces. The owners of these reservoirs and tankers were denied the use of their water and property for their families and thirsty animals.

In the Ogaden, the poor and the fragile ecological balance has been devastated by widespread exploitation and depletion of forests for military purposes, fire-wood and charcoal by EPRDF\TPLF forces and Tigrean dealers, who have been given concessions and game-licences by the Ethiopian government. This exploitation exacerbated an already precarious ecological situation that was under severe pressure from overpopulation and overgrazing. Due to this misuse and the absence of any sound range management policies on the part of the government, the rich flora and fauna of the region, including big game, game birds, forests and water resources have all suffered irreparable damage under the current Ethiopian government.

In 1996, in the fertile valley of the Shabeele River in the Godey area, the Ethiopian government has prevented the people from cultivating their farms unless they pay 500 Ethiopian birr for each farm, which is too much for them to pay. The peasants were threatened with eviction from their lands if they do not pay the new tax. Four years later, in 2000, Godey was one of the worst drought-stricken areas, a situation to whose creation government policies and practices of its army contributed significantly.

The international donor community has helped the victims of the drought generously. But as is usual with Ethiopian government, the aid donated by the international community to the victims of the drought through the Ethiopian Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (ERRC), renamed as the Disaster Prevention and preparedness Commission (DPPC), which is in effect run by the Tigray Relief Society (TRS), never reached its intended beneficiaries in the Ogaden, because the Ethiopian government has misused it by diverting it to the army.

Article 11 of the International Covenant On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) provides that:
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for themselves and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent.

The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international cooperation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;

Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need."

An ex-aid worker in the Ogaden, summed up the reasons of the 2000 famine in the Ogaden in the following points:
a) Drafting of the young people, who were cultivating the land and raising the animals into the Ethiopian Army forcibly to fight the Ethiopian government's war with Eritrea and its invasion in Southern Somalia.
b) Overtaxing the population and forcing them to contribute to the war effort in terms of cash, animals and their meagre harvest at gunpoint.
c) Constant dispossession and looting of private properties by the Ethiopian government forces in the Ogaden with impunity.
d) Depletion of forests for military purposes, firewood and charcoal, which caused soil erosion.
e) Depriving the Ogaden of development projects. In the Ogaden there are no roads, airstrips, hospitals, schools, deep water wells, dams…etc"

"The Ogaden is the most neglected and marginalised region of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government is squarely responsible for the human tragedy in the Ogaden," he concluded.

Warsame, 65, father of 15, lost most of his livestock and five of his grand children, when the devastating drought gripped the region in 2000. He expressed his feeling towards the Ethiopian government: "There is no government here. We have only military barracks in this area. Soldiers, roam throughout the country demanding money, food and loot at gunpoint. They are hungry like us. They looted 50 head of goats belonging to my elder son. We live on food handouts from local and international humanitarian organizations. A government, which cannot feed its people, is not a government. They are asking for aid everyday by our name using our plight and pictures. A good government must commit itself to the welfare of its subjects."

In a joint statement issued on May 16th, 2000, The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Sidama Liberation Front (SLF) said that the "famine is the result of deliberate negligence of the regime to the affected areas and the wrong policies it is pursuing in order to develop its own region to the detriment of the others. There were warnings on the famine looming in the East and the South of the country long time ago. Out of hatred to the peoples in the drought affected areas the regime ignored to act on time to avert the loss of human life by starvation."

On August 9th 2000, in an article, in Le Monde Diplomatique, Sylvie Brunnel, a French journalist who visited the Ogaden, suggests that the famine, which decimated the livestock and the people of the Ogaden, "was not a natural catastrophe as Ethiopian authorities depicted it, but it was a cynically orchestrated game aimed at attracting maximum international aid and capturing votes."

In November 2002, in a statement released through the ministry of information, the Ethiopian government accused the international community of "reluctance and donor fatigue" in responding to the drought, which affected the region. However, a joint statement by ONLF and OLF, blamed the Ethiopian government for this disaster. "Undoubtedly the famine we see now is the product of misadministration and bad political culture and not of natural cause," said the statement.

On 07th December 2002, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi launched an international appeal for help in averting a looming famine, which threatened millions in Ethiopia. " Each year some four million people in the country need food aid to survive and that number was now increasing," he said.

In April 2002 and in May 2003, torrential rains in the Ogaden washed away entire communities and submerged many villages in many areas such as, Godey, Mustaxiil, and Qalaafo. In Jigjiga, Dhagaxbuur, Qabridaharre, Wardheer, Shiniile and Liiban, roads have been cut off by the rains, which destroyed temporary shelters, houses, and killed livestock.

The response of the Ethiopian government was too late, too little and inadequate, and as is usual it accused international community and donor countries of having failed respond in time to safe lives and property.

On 14th June 2003, the Ethiopian government called on the international community to deliver the food aid it has pledged to Ethiopia. "The government appeals once again to the international donor community to release their pledged emergency aid and to come up with a timely humanitarian response to the latest appeal so as to avert the looming danger," said the call.

A former member of the pro-government regional administration, in Jigjiga, told the Ogaden Human Rights Committee that, "You cannot blame others for your failures. The current Ethiopian government has failed in all aspects. Food aid is just a short-term solution and it could not solve the problem. Launching appeals for aid is not the solution. There should be accountability, transparency and good governance in this country. Any aid donated by the international community to the victims of the drought through the Ethiopian government never reached its intended beneficiaries in the Ogaden and elsewhere in Ethiopia except Tigray- the homeland of the ruling elite- because the Ethiopian government has misused it by diverting it to the army."

Regarding to the international development aid, " the case of Meles Zenawi's confidant and close friend, the former Prime Minister Tamirat Layne is a good example. Corruption and embezzlement of public funds remain the order of the day. There is no doubt that members of the ruling elite have foreign bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere. We will know everything, when they are no longer in power, and that is what happened in the case of Mr.Layne and many others in the Third World," he added.

On September 05th 2003, in an international appeal launched through Ethiopian government's Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC), the Ethiopian government appealed for US $40 million to help fight the devastating crisis which has affected 13.2 million people in the drought-stricken areas.

9. Local Humanitarian Organizations

In 2000, people in the world saw television pictures of drought victims. Those suffering were mostly women, children and old men. International and local humanitarian organizations, were helping the victims by establishing feeding centres, make shift hospitals and distributing food rations. The Ogaden Welfare Society's volunteers were everywhere in the drought affected areas helping the victims.

Ogaden Welfare Society (OWS), was founded in October 1991, and registered in April 1992. After the registration, the organization opened its head office in Addis Ababa and one field office in Shilabo.The offices were furnished with all necessary equipments such as, computers and other office accessories. OWS opened bank accounts in Addis Ababa and Godey. The organization hired two consultants in the fields of agriculture and ground water engineering, and compiled ten feasible project proposals immediately.

A founding member of the Ogaden Welfare Society said they have raised 85,000 Ethiopian Birr locally in three weeks, which is an extra-ordinary event in the local standards. "The prominent figures and clan elders who were members made this fund raising possible by setting good example, when they made first tangible contributions by themselves," he added.

"Starting from that event onwards, the Ethiopian government was suspicious of Ogaden Welfare Society as a threat to the national security of the government, just because the organization showed great power over the elders and extra-ordinary influence among the society in general. Since then, the EPRDF/TPLF government has targeted OWS. Members of OWS, were arrested, intimidated and harassed by Ethiopian security forces constantly. The most serious incident was when the Ethiopian army raided an elders' gathering where OWS patrons were holding an orientation session, opened fire indiscriminately, killing two individuals and wounding many others. Ahmed Abdullahi Ahmed, was among the wounded ten bullets riddled his body. Ahmed lost his left arm and sustained permanent handicap," he said.

The OWS was a grass roots, indigenous organization respected by all Somalis in the Ogaden for its remarkable achievements in the drought affected and rural areas.

Despite, the pressure from the Ethiopian government, OWS never stopped its operations. The organization had well served the community in the Ogaden by building dispensaries, feeding centres, schools and digging deep-water wells in different localities in the Ogaden.

In November 1996, three high-ranking officials of the Ogaden Welfare Society were detained without charge or trial in Addis Ababa. No reason was given for their illegal detention. (See Ogaden: No Rights, No Democracy ref: OHRC/08/97, Ogaden: An Endless Human Tragedy ref: OHRC/12/98 and Ogaden : Graveyard of Rights ref :OHRC/10/99).

In early 1998, the OWS became a member of the Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA), and Consortium of Ethiopian Voluntary Organizations (CEVO), the two biggest umbrella organizations in Ethiopia. A new era for OWS staff has begun. Every month, two members of OWS staff were being sent to trainings related to their field of work.

The main focus of Ogaden Welfare Society this time was on Civic Education (CE), and Rural Water Supply Systems (RWSS).

The Civic Education (CE) included:

1. Translation and the Teaching of the Government Constitution,
2. Civil Rights
3. Constitutional Rights
4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights
5. International Human Rights Conventions
6. Conflict Resolution and Resource Sharing Management

The OWS helped and facilitated the National Elders Council to organize themselves into Committees and Sub-Committees to make easy mobilization, transfer of messages, notions and initiatives. They held the first and the second biggest workshops on Conflict Resolution and Resource Sharing Management in Jigjiga and Godey in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Donors, NGOs and embassies participated in the workshops. But, unfortunately, the government banned the third workshop claiming that Ogaden Welfare Society is a threat to the national security

In 2000, the OWS disclosed the grim reality of the famine, which gripped the Ogaden through the international media, while the Ethiopian government, which was in war with Eritrea, ignored knowingly the plight of the Somali people in the Ogaden.

An OWS Co-founder said, "Most of the relief food was directly diverted to the war fronts and for that reason many people starved to death. The drought situation became serious and out of control. But the government claimed that every thing is under control and there is nothing to worry."

Ogaden Welfare Society's officials were under constant surveillance by plain-clothes secret agents, their telephones were tapped and they received death threats. Many of them went into hiding for fear of their lives, while others were forced into exile. Among them are: Mahamud Ugas Muhumed, Co-founder, Member of the Managing Directors, OWS Area Manager and Head of Planning and Program Department, Ahmed Abdullahi Ahmed, Associate Founder, Wardheer Zone Food Aid Monitor, and Social Worker, Mohamed Jelle Idle, AICF-Co-Coordinator and Qoraxey Zone Food Aid Monitor, Aden Abdi Yusuf, Chief Accountant and lately Mohamoud Abdi Ahmed, OWS Chairman.

GUARDIAN-SERRO is another indigenous humanitarian organization, which operates in parts of the Ogaden. It was founded in 1992. It has two offices, one in Addis Ababa and another in Qallaafo. Its founder and Chairman is a member of the Ethiopian House of Representatives.

Its main mission was relief and rehabilitation in the Wabi Shabeelle lower basin. It operates in Qallaafo and Mustaxiil areas. The organization has been responsible for building health centres, irrigation systems and it worked in the food security area as well.

On 05th April 2002, Ethiopian security forces surrounded and broke into the Ogaden Welfare Society's office in Jigjiga, ransacking all that was worth anything. Before ransacking the office, members of the staff at the office were told not to remove anything from the premises.

To justify its action the Ethiopian government accused Ogaden Welfare Society and GUARDIAN-SERRO of threatening the national security of Ethiopia. The ministry of justice had withdrawn the two organization's registration.

According to an Ogaden Welfare Society official, "The organization has never received any official communication from the authorities, but it was a well known fact that OWS was at the top of Ethiopian government's hit list for the last eight years."

He also rejected all Ethiopian government's accusations. "OWS had not violated any laws and was operating under the Ethiopian constitution. The only reason it was being targeted is because of its activities and success as a genuine humanitarian organization. Our organization has never engaged in politics or any other activity outside its mandate. If the Ethiopian government has any evidence, then it should produce it now," he concluded.

Ogaden Welfare Society has employed more than 300 people, who were feeding up to 1,000 children. It also looked after 12,000 internally displaced people (IDP) in Gunagado, Dhagaxbuur Region. More than 500,000 people benefited from OWS's work.

GUARDIAN-SERRO provided food to 6,000 people in Qallaafo, Mustaxiil and other areas.

Today there are no local humanitarian organizations in the Ogaden, and no one is prepared to fill the void left by the closure of OWS and GUARDIAN-SERRO by the Ethiopian government.

Ogaden Human Rights Committee (OHRC)

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