Ethiopians in the Ogaden
Need Our Help—Let Us Stand United Against the Terrorism of
July 9, 2007.
As most Ethiopians come out with outrage to the guilty verdict against
the Opposition leaders and other political prisoners, we should
come out with outrage to the killing going on in the Ogaden against
our fellow Ethiopians living there. Human Rights Watch and a few
others in the international media, like Jeffrey Gettleman of the
New York Times, have reported on the numbers of women and children
being killed daily by the EPRDF-controlled military. Although the
EPRDF Minister of Foreign Affairs, Seyoum Mesfin, used the website
Ethio-media—blocked within Ethiopia by his own administration—to
berate Gettleman’s report as being outrageously false, we
know differently! Lies, in the company of overwhelming evidence
to the contrary, are nothing new for this regime!
In that article that appeared on the front page of the Times, Gettleman
reported that in addition to women, children and elders being killed,
any men—even elders and the young—are seen as a threat.
As a result, numbers of them are being killed or arrested for only
“looking suspicious.” Villages and homes are being burned
and property is being destroyed. Their cattle—the main life
support of these nomadic people—are being killed, creating
certain suffering and hardship that has led to a humanitarian crisis
where many other innocent Ethiopians will die. Now, many thousands
are displaced, without food and basic necessities, and the Ethiopian
National Defense Forces are preventing humanitarian supplies from
Justifying their actions because of the recent attack on the Chinese
oil workers by the ONLF, the EPRDF-controlled military, with all
their weapons and equipment, are now intensifying their attacks
on helpless, unarmed and vulnerable people. They seem not to care
that they are merely targeting proxy victims rather than those in
the ONLF. Do not think that such killing of innocent civilians was
not going on preceding the attack on the Chinese. Instead, this
aggression against the Ogadenis by the EPRDF has been going on for
17 years, but with much greater intensity in the last months and
year since the invasion of Somalia and the discovery of oil and
petroleum in their region.
It is not surprising that the ONLF resistance movement has taken
more serious steps in an attempt to stop the destruction of their
people. In fact, some might make the case that the ONLF is acting
in self-defense against government forces that are destroying them
in order to gain access to their natural resources. They are not
alone. During the Meles regime, many insurgency and separatist groups
have arisen in response to the brutal oppression by the current
regime of the EPRDF.
We strongly condemn this widespread killing, rape, torture, arbitrary
detention and destruction of property that the EPRDF-led military
troops are perpetrating against Ethiopians in the Ogaden region
of our country. It is beginning to look like an ethnic cleansing.
We condemn any violence against civilians by any groups, but what
is shocking is the hypocrisy of the EPRDF who condemns the ONLF
while committing worse atrocities itself! They have asked the US
State Department to add the ONLF to the list of terrorist international
organizations. Does the same apply to them?
Some day they may be standing in International Criminal Court for
charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Therefore, we
ask, on what moral authority can the EPRDF stand in accusation of
others over the same terrorism that they are ruthlessly perpetrating
against Ethiopian citizens?
Remembering back to 2003 in the Gambella region, the situation
is nearly identical to what happened to the Anuak. At that time,
the human rights abuses against the Anuak started simultaneously
with the oil drilling activities of the Chinese oil company, Zhongyuan
Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB). In a well-calculated plan,
EPRDF-controlled military troops and militia groups massacred Anuak
leaders who had spoken against being excluded from the oil development
plans in their region. This followed many years of federal control
over the affairs of the Gambella region.
Arbitrary detentions, beatings, torture and extra-judicial killings
all were used to “discourage’ dissent, leading to the
development of numerous resistance, political or civic groups—some
of them being armed separatist groups like the Gambella Peoples’
Liberation Front (GPLF) or other rebel groups, a few of which committed
atrocities against innocent civilians themselves while most the
GPLF only attacked the military. Regardless of the targets, after
such actions by armed rebels, it was routine that innocent civilians
were murdered in cold blood by EPRDF-controlled military.
In addition, any “suspicious looking” Anuak men or
women, just like in the Ogaden, especially those close to the oil
drilling sites, were killed or arrested. However, many of the latter
have never been seen since. (See AJC updates from 2004 and 2005.)
To date, no one has been held accountable by the EPRDF other than
a few scapegoats. The Anuaks were at times, also purposefully displaced,
causing great humanitarian need.
This is all now being repeated in the Ogaden and again appears
to be in close association with the exploitation of the natural
resources. In the case of the Anuak, a “deal” was made
with the oil company with the EPRDF, where the EPRDF reportedly
agreed to pay twenty-five million to the company should any worker
lose his life to armed resistors. It is believed that many human
rights violations were committed in pre-emptive actions to avoid
any losses and subsequent payments. No workers were killed, but
many innocent Anuak suffered needlessly to ensure it. Is there another
such “deal” now in the Ogaden? Supposedly, security
in the oil/natural gas areas in the Ogaden are under high security,
reportedly now aided by satellite surveillance since Jeffrey Gettleman
was found in the area—and was later arrested and detained
for five days.
While the EPRDF-controlled military are mercilessly killing our
people in the Ogaden in silence, Meles is trying to distract us
with his deceitful maneuverings surrounding the guilty verdict or
release of the Opposition leaders and other political prisoners.
We have a moral duty to speak out against this like we are doing
it for our own ethnic group! Our leaders from all political parties,
human rights organizations, civic organizations, religious leaders--
including Muslims, Jews and Christians—should condemn this
killing and exert pressure on the Meles government to stop!
He is doing this to our people! Remember, our people are not only
those imprisoned leaders in Addis Ababa; nor are our people only
those in our own ethnic group! Our people are all Ethiopians. If
you are a person, leader or activist criticizing the Woyanne government,
you have an obligation to show it right now by speaking out and
condemning what is going on—recognizing that those in the
corners of our country are fully within our borders. They are fully
Ethiopian and we have responsibility to care about them!
Right now, reports indicate that the people of the Ogaden are
under the greatest onslaught from the Woyanne of any of the groups
within our country. It is time to act as one people—united
under shared values and principles. In the past, we have suffered
alone while others have not cared or cried for us. For example,
when the Anuak were killed, no one cried for the Anuak except the
Anuak. The same is true for countless others! This must change!
It is time to cry for each other and to stand up in their defense!
Until we do, we will never attain freedom. Instead, the powerful
will take their turn to eat while the rest of us languish, alone
and alienated from each other, until another dominant group overpowers
it and again exploits the weak in a cycle of “dog eat dog
This is a doomed model of government--systemically evil—that
must be abandoned for a new model of government that respects the
humanity and God-given rights of all citizens, not just the few
in power! No longer should we simply pay “lip-service”
to addressing injustice. No longer should we fall into the manipulative
traps of ethnic division set for us by the Woyanne—traps meant
to keep us separate—traps meant to weaken us—traps meant
to prolong their own power and to defeat us, one ethnic group at
The goal of this struggle is to bring dignity and equality to all.
We will not succeed if we struggle only for our own group. We must
include all Ethiopians in our struggle to save the soul of our nation
and the soul of our people!
If you are Kinijit, OLF, Hebret or part of any other political
group or organization, do not sit by as a spectator when you are
hearing about other Ethiopians being killed and being treated with
such brutality! Resolve your internal conflicts and focus on the
people of Ethiopia—time does not permit such distractions!
Remember, any injustice committed towards any of our people should
be considered injustice being committed to ourselves! It is time
for political leaders, civic organizations, economic leaders and
religious leaders to mobilize behind this noble cause of defending
Division has been the lifeblood of the Woyanne. They want to divide
us so that when they kill us, we are alone. They want us to die
alone, cry alone and fight alone. But, if we want an Ethiopia based
on equality, humanity, justice and the rule of law, then every ethnic
group has a moral responsibility to fight for their brothers and
sisters because the next time, it will be you. Do you want to be
alone or supported by other Ethiopians at your time of need?
For years, we in our individual ethnic groups stood alone in our
suffering and oppression and no one cared. No wonder so many felt
alienated and neglected by the main stream of Ethiopia. No wonder
so many formed separatist groups. It only makes sense under such
conditions for “you find out who your friends and family really
are during your difficult times by seeing who is at your side.”
It is time to come alongside our brothers and sisters in the Ogaden.
We do not have to share the same culture, lifestyle or religion
to know them as our own fellow Ethiopians. Other Ethiopians should
be making noise on their behalf. The isolation of their region is
no longer an excuse. Ethiopians should be standing up and show themselves
to be people of good will instead of people of ill will. As we stand
up for them, we are showing we are a changed people, willing to
stand up for each other in order to create a more humane and just
Ethiopia—one fit for human life! When something happens to
one in a family, it affects everyone.
Pay attention to what is happening to others and tell the truth
about it, even if it is hard to admit. We cannot heal without the
truth being known. Hiding it can bring greater destruction, not
only to individuals, but also to families, communities, ethnic groups
and nations. We must condemn wrongful things even if we have a son
or sibling in the military who may be involved. Support them in
choosing not to commit such human rights crimes as they could be
held accountable some day in a court of law. Yet, we know that many
in the military are not participating in these crimes while others
may be ordered or pressured to do so against their will and consciences.
Let us speak out so they understand that the child of the Ogaden
is their Ethiopian brother or sister—a fellow human being
of worth and value in God’s eyes. Speak out so they can refuse
to cave in to rape a sister Ethiopian. Speak out so they have the
courage to refuse to kill and destroy another human being’s
life. Speak out so the cruel and merciless, those whose consciences
have been hardened, especially those giving the orders, can be brought
to justice under a fair court system.
It is time for every Ethiopian to say we refuse to hate and kill.
It is time to put an end to the cycle of violence and to instead,
help find a way to make our country a place where we can live together
in harmony without hate and fear—creating an Ethiopia that
respects every living human being. We need such a change in our
souls that empowers our lives, through God’s grace, to change.
Then we can reclaim dignity, justice and our God-given rights that
have been denied by this government for so many years.
Each and every one is needed to fight for such an Ethiopia—for
adequate homes, basic necessities and education that are not taken
away at the whim of a mercenary government. Such an Ethiopia cannot
be achieved by dishonesty, hatred, deception, but only through honesty,
discipline, understanding, organization and sacrifice—not
only for oneself, but for all of us!
I believe many of us are ready for such action, as much has changed
among Ethiopians in the last year or more. We are becoming more
capable and ready than ever to launch a united response against
the terrorism, corruption and injustice we are facing together.
Wherever I go and speak to Ethiopians, when I talk to them on the
phone, when I hear comments on PalTalk or read articles and comments
written by Ethiopians on the Internet, I am sensing a newness of
Put that change of mind and heart into practice if it is real.
Our response to the terrorization of the Ogadenis will show us if
we are really ready for a real democracy where all people are included
or if we simply want to take power and privilege for ourselves!
I am convinced that if we stand up as Ethiopians against the terrorism
of our people of the Ogaden, it will strike terror in the hearts
of the Woyanne! It will be a nightmare for them!
Think back nearly four years. When the Anuak were targeted and
killed, there was hardly a word about it anywhere—not only
from international media groups, but also from fellow Ethiopians.
Why? Perhaps because we Ethiopians were so ethnically divided at
the time, combined with the devaluation of the Anuak as a minority
group thought of as “Barias.” Perhaps this is why if
anyone did notice, they did not care enough to do anything. However,
Ethiopia is not the same today as it was then—much has changed.
Has it changed enough that we can express our outrage and willingness
to stand up for the people of the Ogaden? Today is the day we are
being tested to see of what we are made! Will we Ethiopians pass?
Have we learned what it means to be truly human? Can we stand up
as one people for others among us who are in jeopardy?
Right now, the Gambella region is much calmer and safer. For the
most part, the troops have been moved out of the region. Where are
they? They are in the Ogaden region and in Somalia. Unfortunately,
the same troops that used to be terrorizing civilians in the Gambella
area—harassing, torturing, killing arresting, raping and destroying
property—are now in the Ogaden doing the same to them and
over the border doing the same in Somalia. As a result, the Gambella
region is freer of terror, but their “terror” has now
moved to terrorize another group of Ethiopians.
Many other Ethiopians will know what we are talking about. It is
the same kind of horrific crimes against civilians that have been
perpetrated against the Ethiopian Sidamo, the Ethiopian Afar, the
Ethiopian Oromo, the Ethiopian Amhara, the Ethiopian election protestors,
Ethiopian non-EPRDF Tigrayans and many other fellow Ethiopian citizens
throughout our country and even into Somalia now.
The evidence is building for another case of “crimes against
humanity” committed by the EPRDF against its own civilian
population to later be heard in International Criminal Court! If
an investigation takes place later, there are countless crimes against
humanity that could be used to bring him before the International
Criminal Court—the crimes in Awassa, Gambella, Addis Ababa,
Somalia and in the Ogaden. These are just to name a few because
there are many others directed at other Ethiopians throughout other
Our response to this current tragedy will inform the world whether
we Ethiopians have changed! We must ask ourselves—have we
really left behind ethnic division and become one in our struggle
for liberty, justice, equality and democracy? Have we become a people
who stand up for each other when harm is committed against those
in our greater family of Ethiopians? If so, it is time to prove
it! Don’t be discouraged. If we all work together, we are
laying the groundwork for a healthy, well-functioning society and
much good can come to Ethiopia under these conditions!
If we are really a changed people, ready for a sustainable democracy
rather than simply another Meles or Mengistu, we will show it by
doing all we can for our brothers and sisters in the Ogaden region
of Ethiopia—they are us! No longer can we allow the brutal
regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to silently kill our people
at the corners of our country, as they stand alone! No! Enough is
enough! Alone, we are forever vulnerable; however, together, we
can change Ethiopia!
Therefore, it is our moral duty to decry this cold-blooded murder
and destruction among us! If we fail to act together, we fail not
only them, but we fail ourselves, our children and our grandchildren—all
of whom will face the future consequences of our present action
or inaction. We cannot achieve our goals alone while we stand by,
isolated from each other.
Right now the time is urgent. Let us stand by our Ethiopian family
in the Ogaden and Afar regions who are under the terrorization of
Meles Zenawi, a well-known terrorist to us, posing as a democratic
leader. We call on the United States State Department to add him
and his co-facilitators of terror to the list of international terrorist
organizations—they are a threat to the entire region. The
evidence is abundantly clear—Meles and the few in the ruling
elite are in the process of maiming or exterminating an entire generation
of people in the Ogaden. It is under our watch and we cannot stand
by! It is time to act!
I hear there is a demonstration planned on July 16 in Washington
D.C. on the same day that the political leaders sentences are expected
to be given. I urge Ethiopians to come out in great numbers. I also
hope that all Ethiopians express their outrage against the murder
of the Ogadenis by Meles. The same thing is happening to our Ethiopian
brothers and sisters in the Afar region. Let us stand up for these
Ethiopians! Good people can no longer be silent or we may find that
the next victim may be you or your child!
In conclusion, do not lose hope in our struggle to bring freedom
to Ethiopia. Even though there continues to be division within the
Kinijit as well as in other political groups, we cannot give up
now—we have come too far! We must continue to concentrate
on the fight against Woyanne. Be patient and do not be discouraged.
Our struggle is no longer about individuals. It is about the nation!
Every time you are divided, stir up division or create your own
new organization rather than trying to better work together, you
are sabotaging the completion of our work. Instead, we must continue
to focus on our goals if we expect to succeed—something that
is absolutely possible. Even though the chaos and division we see
can divert our attention or discourage us, do not give up or lose
It might seem like Woyanne are winning, but we can pick up the
momentum through hard work, concentration and sacrifice. Remember,
they are spending millions to stay in power, undoubtedly, because
they are sensing increasing danger from the alienated Ethiopian
Their international image is falling into greater disrepute as
their horrific acts against our people, like the Ogadenis, are coming
to light. Their lack of any semblance of justice in the courts of
our country towards the Opposition leaders and other political prisoners
is making heroes out of the prisoners while making those outside
of Ethiopia, gasp at the lack of any legitimate legal process towards
innocent defenders of freedom.
We should take heart—the Kinijit started building a bridge
to freedom in 2005 when they mobilized millions of people to come
out to rally and vote for a new Ethiopia. Now, they are locked up
and we are the ones who must finish that bridge which is standing,
half-built, in the middle of the river.
Let us finish the work until the bridge reaches to the other side,
connecting us to new Ethiopia, new peace, justice, equality and
reconciliation. We all know that a bridge cannot be built without
many hands. Be patient and diligent. Be one of those who helps finish
the bridge until we have a way to reach the other side.
Just like we walk on roads others have built, our children of the
future will cross the bridge we have built if we do not lose this
opportunity. The bridge needs your hands along with the hands of
the Ogadenis, Afar, Gaadson, Hamar, Surma, Hawadle, Dorze, Komo,
Welayta, Konso, Shanqella, Guji and all those in the 88 ethnic groups
that made up the one family, family of Ethiopia.
May God help us to better love, value and care for our Ethiopian
brothers and sisters from every ethnic group throughout our beloved
land. Together, may God help us build a bridge to a NEW
ETHIOPIA where freedom, peace, justice, equality and respect
is shared and enjoyed by all!
For additional information, please contact:
Mr. Obang O. Metho,
The Director of International Advocacy:
Phone (306) 933-4346
this file in Word format.
this file in PDF format.