Ethiopian rebels call for Ogaden aid corridor

Ethiopia’s Ogaden rebels on Friday demanded that the United Nations Security Council secure an aid corridor to their homeland where they said people were starving behind a military blockade.

Since June last year the Ethiopian military has been waging an offensive against separatist guerrillas that has cut off access for most aid workers and journalists to the ethnically Somali region.

”The situation is getting out of hand. Women and children and the elderly are dying from thirst and hunger,” Abdirahman Mahdi, a founding member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), said in a telephone interview.

”The UN Security Council must set up and enforce an aid corridor immediately, with international monitors, because the army is using relief supplies to fuel its campaign.”

Ethiopia’s government, an important US ally in the region, routinely rejects ONLF claims that its forces withhold aid from desperate communities in the drought-stricken east.

The ONLF was formed in 1984 in the ethnically Somali region on Ethiopia’s border with Somalia. Its aims have varied between full-scale independence to joining a ”Greater Somalia”, to more autonomy within Ethiopia for a region it says is neglected.

Addis Ababa says the rebels are terrorists supported by Horn of Africa rival Eritrea, and points to an ONLF attack on a Chinese-run oil field in April 2007 that killed 74 people.

It says criticism of its tactics in the rocky, arid region is just defamation by ”anti-peace” forces.

Mahdi said international officials who had visited Ogaden recently, including UN aid chief John Holmes, had underestimated the crisis.

”People are eating roots and grass, animals are dying,” he said. ”And at the same time the military campaign is going on. Soldiers are shooting people, beating people, harassing them.”

Holmes said earlier this month special attention should be paid to the region and food deliveries should be speeded up.

In June, US-based Human Rights Watch said donors who gave the government more than $2-billion a year in aid needed to speak out against what the group called widespread and systematic atrocities by Ethiopian troops.

HRW accused Western nations including, the US and Britain, of maintaining a conspiracy of silence. Addis Ababa said the report was fabricated.

In July, regional government officials in Ogaden accused a Swiss medical charity of spreading hearsay after it stopped work there complaining of repeated obstructions, intimidation and arrests. — Reuters

Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

New era of health science for Africa as NantSA launches...

The first locally manufactured Covid-19 vaccine from the new facility, which is based in Cape Town, is expected within the next year

SAA to revive Durban route

The beleaguered national carrier resumed flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town last September after exiting business rescue

‘Partygate’: A timeline of Boris Johnson’s latest scandal

The UK Prime Minister defended some of the events — quickly dubbed "partygate" since they were reported in newspapers from late last year —  as work gatherings.

Freedom of speech wins over right to privacy in court...

The supreme court of appeal says an animal rights activist had the right to ‘out’ a farmer on Facebook.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…