7 August 2011

The BBC Newsnight investigative report titled “ Ethiopia Using Aid As A Weapon Of Repression” aired on the 4th of August 2011 represents an accurate portrayal of the state of affairs in Ethiopia and correctly represents the conduct of the regime led by Meles Zenawi as it relates to using food aid as a weapon of repression. The report detailed how international humanitarian assistance has been politicized by the regime noting how needy civilians considered to be opponents of the regimes policies are systematically denied much needed humanitarian aid. The broadcast showed Ogaden civilians describing rape and torture at the hands of the regime with many fleeing to refugee camps in neighboring Kenya. It is worth noting the difficulty the BBC team faced in conducting interviews in an environment where fear of the regime is the norm and retribution for speaking to international media is commonplace.

Nowhere is suffering at the hands of this regime more severe than in Ogaden where food aid has been used as a weapon of repression for years. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) has repeatedly called for international intervention in Ogaden where the Ethiopian regime is engaged in war crimes and acts of collective punishment targeting our civilian population on a near daily basis. These war crimes crimes have been well documented over the years by reputable human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and are well known to donor nations and specifically permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The ONLF has specifically called for the initiation of an investigation of the human rights situation in Ogaden based on the proprio motu powers of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. We have also called on the United Nations Security Council to realize a humanitarian corridor into Ogaden free from Ethiopian military interference so that food aid can reach all of our most needy people. So far no action has been taken by the High Commissioners office or the UN Security Council.

Despite the rapidly expanding famine in the Horn of Africa, the Ethiopian regime continues to blockade large areas of Ogaden due to so-called “security reasons” while ONLF continues to appeal to the international community to come to the aid of our people during this catastrophic famine pledging full cooperation and support. The regimes repeated allegations that the ONLF is sympathetic to groups such as Al-Shabab and Al-Qaeda is part of the regimes strategy to justify it’s blockade of Ogaden and crackdown against our people. The fact of the matter is the ONLF shares no ideological links with either of those groups or any other similar organization. Infact, Al-Shabab has on more than one occasion targeted the leadership of the ONLF for assassination succeeding on one occasion to assassinate the ONLF Defence Secretary Mr Elias Sh. Ali Siyaad. As such, the ONLF has no sympathy for or common interests with the Al-Shabab or their foreign affiliates.

While the world responds to the famine in Somalia, in large part due to increased media coverage, Ogaden suffers in silence as international press is still denied free and unfettered access to Ogaden. The arrest and wounding of Swedish Journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye who sought to report from Ogaden demonstrates how far the Ethiopian regime is willing to go to conceal it’s war crimes in Ogaden. Johan and Martin remain imprisoned in Ethiopia after being arrested in late June of this year by Ethiopian security agents. Despite this, we commend courageous members of the international media who continue to seek to report from Ogaden. We encourage journalists to continue to seek entry into Ogaden by all means necessary.

That the Ogaden is cut off from the outside world is undeniable. That this regime imposed blockade is taking place during the worst famine in over half a century is simply genocide. Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, the Ethiopian regime continues to deny that it has severely restricted free movement to humanitarian organizations and free access to international media and human rights organizations in Ogaden. The Melez Zenawi regime even went so far as to kick out the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) from Ogaden.

While we commend those organizations operating under severe restrictions yet making every effort to aid our people in Ogaden, we continue to call on the international community to come to the aid of our people by establishing a humanitarian corridor into the most needy areas of Ogaden. The Ethiopian regime simply cannot be trusted with international aid and will continue to deny food aid to people deemed not sympathetic to the regime. Donor nations must recognize that the taxpayer funded food aid of their citizens is being used as a weapon of repression in Ogaden requiring a new approach to delivering food aid to our suffering people.

We, once again, urge the United Nations Security Council to not sit by idly and watch thousands of our people die of hunger while aid is diverted by the military forces of the Ethiopian regime and Ogaden continues to suffer under a regime imposed blockade. The famine in Ogaden transcends any perceived so-called “sovereignty considerations” and requires international intervention..

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)

See video report “ Ethiopia Using Aid As A Weapon Of Repression” at link below


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