June 17, 2014
Women in Ogaden have called on the international community to investigate and address the issue of sexual violence in the region, which is widely used by the Ethiopian military as a weapon of war.
As the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict opens in London next week [Global Summit was held 10-13 June], thousands of miles away in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, sexual violence continues to be used as a weapon of war. Unfortunately this is a story that will barely receive any attention in the London Summit. The reason is simple: it’s carried out by the government of Ethiopia, one of the most important allies of the UK in the Horn of Africa.
The region is cut off from the world due to the Ethiopian government’s restrictions on the media. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which is mandated to monitor international humanitarian law, is also banned from the region.
The evidence of widespread use of rape as a weapon of war in the region is based on research conducted by Ogaden Women Relief Association in the Ogaden and testimonies collected from the Ogaden refugees in Kenya. In Ogaden, there is no protection from rape and sexual assault for women and girls accused of sympathizing with the liberation movement.
Those who survive sexual violence still suffer profound trauma. The psychological terror is extreme and those who return home, often as rape victims, find hard to reintegrate into village life.
Furthermore, the restrictions on humanitarian organisations mean that there are no health services or other support mechanisms for the survivors of rape and sexual violence. Some of the survivors have to endure a dangerous journey through war-torn Somalia to reach overcrowded Somali refugee camps in Northern Kenya.
Ethiopia is an important ally of the UK government and the recipient of the biggest bilateral aid in the Africa. The question is how can the UK government use this Summit to urge Ethiopia to stop its military from using rape as a weapon of war in the Ogaden?
We urge the UK government to speak out against sexual violence in the Ogaden. In particular, we recommend the following actions;Call for independent and credible investigation into the sexual violence in the Ogaden; Call for unfettered access to all parts of the Ogaden by humanitarian and human rights organisations Review of UK aid to Ethiopia and ensure that any assistance in the Ogaden is tied to unlimited access to the region by the humanitarian and human rights organisations Stop UK assistance to the Ethiopian military and the special (liyu) police in the Ogaden Support the resolution of the Ogaden conflict through political and peaceful means
Despite the raging conflict in Ogaden and the systematic evidence of rape and sexual violence and other serious human rights violations, the United Nations does not acknowledge the conflict and has not assigned its Special Representative on Sexual Violence to look into the Ogaden case and has undertaken no investigations to help bring the perpetrators to justice. Even the Ogaden rape issue does not figure much in the current UK Government’s-led Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and there is no mention of rape in Ogaden in its human rights reports. In addition the international community that fund Ethiopia seem to maintain a conspiracy of silence about those crimes against humanity in Ogaden.
We, Ogaden women displaced around the world are deeply worried about the systematic use of rape carried out with impunity in Ogaden by the Army and other security forces of the Ethiopian government. We kindly request the international community to take urgent action that will stop rape in Ogaden.