Category: "Ogaden Ethiopia"

Ethiopia region faces ethnic Somali uprising

May 7th, 2007

Ethiopia region faces ethnic Somali uprising
Violence flaring in an East African region vital to U.S. security interests.

By Zoe Alsop
Sunday, May 06, 2007

GODE, Ethiopia —
The town of Gode sits on an arid plain of brittle yellow scrub brush in Ethiopia's eastern Somali region. It looks like a place a John Wayne character might live and die.

And to be sure, people are dying here as violence from warring factions in the neighboring nation of Somalia spills over into Ethiopia.

"The worst are bullet injuries to the abdomen," said Solomon Muluneh, a 31-year-old Ethiopian general practitioner, one of only two doctors within 100 miles. "When you open the abdomen, you pray because it is a very difficult area."

The bullet wounds are the product of fighting between Ethiopian-government sponsored militias and local rebels. Ethiopian forces crossed into Somalia last year in an ongoing effort to counter the gains made by the Islamic Courts Union, which U.S. officials say has al Qaeda links. Ethiopia accuses the Somalian Muslim group of planning to invade this region and backing the local rebel force, known as the Ogaden National Liberation Front, or ONLF.

Washington sees this lawless region of the Horn of Africa, the continent's gateway to the Middle East, as a linchpin for regional security. U.S. military forces, working with Ethiopian troops, have used this area as a strategic base from which to gather intelligence and coordinate airstrikes on targets in Somalia.

Gode — which sits along the main road that runs from Ethiopia's ethnic Somali region to Somalia's capital of Mogadishu — has the hard-bitten feel of a frontier town. Aside from a handful of government buildings, it is a warren of rickety shelters patched together from mud, wattle and tarps bearing logos of international relief agencies. Beyond the town, tiny thatch dwellings of nomadic Somali herders dot the dusty plain.

But Gode, with a population of 100,000, is more important than it seems. It is at the heart of a region important to U.S. interests, where experts say chronic neglect of the ethnic Somalis, including the dominant Ogaden clan, by Ethiopia's government has sown the kind of anarchy where terrorism thrives.

"That is a brilliant ground for terror because if you want to sustain terror, you will need to have recruits. When you have people who are idle and disorderly and poor and helpless, you have got free fodder," said Peter Edopu of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies.

There is no road connecting Gode directly to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, about 400 miles northwest.

The government has left the region on its own to cope with a cycle of flood and famine that kills hundreds of people each year. Unemployment is estimated at well over 50 percent and food here costs three times what it does in the rest of Ethiopia.

The only thing that comes cheap are guns.

An array of rebel factions opposed to Ethiopian rule have operated here as part of a regional and cultural feud first fueled by British rule in the 19th century. Ever since British colonists begrudgingly bequeathed the area to an Ethiopian emperor more than a century ago, ethnic Somalis here have fought with the "habeisha," or highlanders, as they call the non-Somali Ethiopians.

The rebels want independence for this region, where their Ogaden clan has traditionally lived. But they have formed an alliance with factions inside Somalia that covet the region as part of a "Greater Somalia" along with parts of Djibouti, Eritrea and Kenya where ethnic Somalis live.

The U.S. interest in Gode is plain to see. Barriers block vehicle access to Gode's airstrip and a local hotel, where a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Battalion camped out before they left the area last year.

In a campaign to win hearts and minds, U.S. soldiers drilled wells for water, vaccinated livestock and, according to local lore, barbecued a crocodile dragged from the muddy river.

The U.S. military shares intelligence and expertise with Ethiopia's army and used Ethiopian airstrips to launch airstrikes on suspected al Qaeda redoubts in southern Somalia in January.

"We have a very special relationship with this country because of the things we share," U.S. Ambassador Donald Yamamoto said. "Ethiopia and the U.S. have a commonality of issues. And it's not only the war on terrorism. . . . It's fighting poverty, it's fighting HIV/AIDS, it's fighting malaria."

So far, however, those issues have meant little for Gode's residents. They may live in Ethiopia, but they consider themselves Somalis.

Of the 5.5 million people living this part of Ethiopia, 90 percent are Somali-speaking Muslims and can trace their lineage more than a thousand years back to the same clans now dominating Somalia.

In the stalls at the market, everything from tins of pineapple and cooking oil to cellophane-wrapped shirts has been bought in Somalia.

Whatever the Ethiopian government can't or won't provide, people find in Somalia.

"We don't get adequate drugs from the central government," said Muluneh, who earns less than $200 a month. "Since we have a shortage, we are forced to use the drugs coming from Somalia. There is no quality control. But you can find antibiotics, IVs, anti-malarials, any kind of drug."

Experts, such as Edopu, say the Ethiopian government and the United States would be wise to do more to help Gode instead of focusing on security issues alone. Otherwise, they risk pushing ordinary people into the arms of the insurgency.

Ethiopian officials blame the rebels for the region's woes.

The size of the force is unclear, but the Ethiopian government says it has ties to extremists in Somalia. It has claimed responsibility for several attacks in recent months, including an attack against Ethiopian soldiers guarding a Chinese-run oil field near the Somali border in April that killed 65 troops and nine Chinese workers.

Two weeks after Ethiopian troops invaded Mogadishu in late December, the Ethiopian Red Cross reported more than 200 casualties from fighting between the rebels and government-backed militias. The rebels claimed to have taken control of more than two dozen towns in the region during the same period.

"The main problem in this region is the opposition," said Gode's mayor, Sheik Moktar. "The ONLF is the only barrier for development in the region because they are burning everything that we build here."

Others in Gode said an intricate network of government-paid informants infiltrates everything from dusty coffee stalls to the compounds of international relief agencies. One trader said that district officials warned Gode's merchants not to talk to American journalists visiting the region.

But the Ethiopian administration says it has good relations with the people of the area.

"Somali-speaking people inhabiting our region, they are Ethiopians, they have full rights," Information Minister Bereket Simon said. "They can secede from Ethiopia if they want. Their right is respected to this level so they have never enjoyed better."

Additional material from freelancer Nick Wadhams, assisted by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


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Ethiopia - Freed Oil workers arrive in Addis Ababa

April 30th, 2007

Ethiopia - Freed oil workers arrive in Addis Ababa

Photo: ENA

SEVEN Chinese oil workers abducted by Ethiopian rebels after a deadly attack on an oil venture arrived in Addis Ababa, a day after being freed, Chinese officials said.

The hostages arrived aboard a military helicopter from the country's eastern Ogaden region, where they had been held since last Wednesday, when the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) raided the Chinese-run oil site, killing 77 people.

"Yes, they have already arrived. They are at the Chinese embassy as of now," an embassy official at the airport said on condition of anonymity.

It was not immediately clear whether one Somali and one Ethiopian, also released yesterday, had also arrived in Addis Ababa.

The ONLF handed over the hostages to the International Committee for the Red Cross after a temporary ceasefire was arranged with the Ethiopian army, with the aid agency acting as mediator.


  • 65 Ethiopian workers were killed
  • 9 Chinese were killed
  • 7 Chinese workers were kidnapped
  • ONLF claimed responsibility
  • 9 kidnapped oil workers freed on April 29 2007

The rebels, who want independence for ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia's Ogaden region, had said they wanted to release the Chinese captives rapidly, without any demands.

The group said overnight that the government had begun a crackdown on civilians in Jijiga, the provincial capital of Somali regional state, which includes Ogaden.

"Now that the Chinese citizens have been released, the ONLF expects this crackdown to broaden to other areas in Ogaden," they said, calling for the international community to bear witness to events there.

Ethiopia "must take a different approach to conflict resolution and agree to internationally-witnessed dialogue with legitimate representatives of the people of Ogaden", the ONLF said.

Last week's attack, the first on an oil site since the ONLF issued a threat to foreign companies operating in the region a year ago, killed 68 Ethiopian workers and nine Chinese.

The ONLF has urged China to stop cooperating with Ethiopia on oil exploration until the group gains legitimate self-government in Ogaden, but it said that the attack was not targeting China.


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Ethiopia - 9 Kidnapped Oil workeres freed

April 29th, 2007

Ethiopia - 9 Freed After Ethiopian Oil Attack

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia —
Seven Chinese oil workers and two Africans kidnapped during a rebel attack on a Chinese oil field near the Somali border were released Sunday, the Red Cross said.


  • 65 Ethiopian workers were killed
  • 9 Chinese were killed
  • 7 Chinese workers were kidnapped
  • ONLF claimed responsibility
  • 9 kidnapped oil workers freed on April 29 2007

Patrick Megevand, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ethiopia, confirmed the release but declined to provide details. The Red Cross was taking the men to a safe location to be turned over the Ethiopian and Chinese authorities, he added.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front claimed responsibility for the attack on the Chinese-owned oil exploration field in eastern Ethiopia on April 24 that left 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese workers dead. The group said six Chinese workers "were removed from the battlefield for their own safety." Ethiopian and Chinese officials said seven Chinese workers were missing.

The rebels, ethnic Somalis who claim to be fighting for independence for the Ogaden region, said in a statement Sunday that all of the Chinese citizens were in good health and had been treated well. The group had refrained from new attacks while negotiating with the Red Cross to release the abducted workers, but complained that the Ethiopian military was cracking down on ethnic Somalis in the regional capital, Jijiga.

"Civilians in Ogaden are being told by troops that they will pay the price for the recent ONLF military operation," the rebel statement said.

Earlier, the group said it would resume fighting after the Chinese workers were transferred to the Red Cross. The rebels warned foreign companies against trying to work in Ogaden.

China has condemned Tuesday's attack and rejected the group's warning.


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Ethiopia - Rebels deny any role in grenade attack in Jijiga

April 28th, 2007

Ethiopia - Rebels deny any role in grenade attack in eastern Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia:
An Ethiopian rebel group denied on Saturday any role in a grenade attack in eastern Ethiopia that killed one person at the home of a family mourning a relative killed in a rebel attack earlier this week.

On Friday, government spokesman Zemedkun Tekle said that the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front was responsible for the grenade attack in the eastern Ethiopian town of Jijiga, some 700 kilometers (435 miles) east of the capital, Addis Ababa.

The accusation "has no basis in reality," the Ogaden National Liberation Front said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. "We wish to make clear that it is the policy of the ONLF not to deliberately harm civilians or carry out military operations targeting civilians."

The rebel group claimed that the Thursday grenade attack stemmed from a dispute between soldiers of two tribes, but they did not give details about what the dispute was.

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Device explodes in Jijiga, killing 1

The front had claimed responsibility for an attack on a Chinese-owned oil exploration field in eastern Ethiopia on Tuesday, killing 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese. The group said in a statement sent to media organizations that six other Chinese workers "were removed from the battlefield for their own safety."

The Ethiopian rebels promised on Friday to work with the Red Cross to return the six as soon as possible but said that government military operations placed the workers in danger.

The group said it would resume fighting after the Chinese workers were transferred to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Patrick Megevand, a spokesman for the Red Cross, declined to discuss the case. Two Ethiopian government spokesmen also declined to comment.

Sun Qing, a spokeswoman at the Chinese embassy in Addis Ababa, would not discuss efforts to gain the release of the Chinese workers.

The rebels said again that no foreign company should try to work in the Ogaden region, a large state along the Somali border. The group says it is fighting for the region's right to self-determination.

The Chinese government has condemned Tuesday's attack and rejected the group's warning.


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Ethiopia - Device explodes in Jijiga, killing 1

April 27th, 2007


A device exploded in an eastern Ethiopia town, killing one person, the government spokesman said Friday
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: (AP)

The explosion occurred Thursday in the eastern Ethiopia town of Jijiga at the home of an Ethiopian family mourning the death of their relative in a rebel attack earlier this week, said Zemedkun Tekle, the government spokesman. "The terrorists who have done the massacre have done this. This horrible incident has been committed by the ONLF (Ogaden National Liberation Front)," Zemedkun told The Associated Press.

Source: AP

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