Jan 09, 2018

UNPO Releases Briefing Note on the Current Situation of the Ogaden and Ethiopia

UNPO has released a briefing note focusing on the Ogaden region and Ethiopia, shedding light on the multiple crises facing the country at the moment. While human rights violations remain widespread in the Ogaden and beyond, both a humanitarian and a political crisis also gravely affect the country's most vulnerable peoples. With this publication, UNPO hopes to raise decision-makers' awareness about an explosive state of play in what is still considered to be a "beacon of stability" in the Horn of Africa.

The current situation in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia is mainly determined by a large number of human rights violations, as Ethiopia openly breaches the obligations it has by virtue of being party to the main international human rights treaties. This gravely affects women and detainees in particular, the former being in many instances subjected to rape while the latter suffer torture in prisons such as Jail Ogaden. The Ethiopian government also has lately further restricted the freedom of Ethiopians by blocking access to social media for example, thus further hampering criticism against its policies.

Meanwhile, the restrictions imposed by the government on the Ogaden region further exacerbate the humanitarian distress of the populations in an area already suffering from the drought and famine: while limitation of movement bars access to healthcare facilities, trade embargoes cause critical food shortages. All of this takes place in a context of blockade, with foreigners and international observers still banned from accessing the Ogaden. Despite the critical situation, national and local authorities hide the extent of the epidemic in order to avoid putting their foreign relations and tourism at risk and keep pushing Ethiopia's image as the most stable country in the Horn of Africa.

In reality, the political and geopolitical context in which Ethiopia finds itself is explosive, as the government attempts to instigate conflict between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and the Oromos in order to support its repressive rhetoric and policy. The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and the ruling coalition - the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) - are crumbling and the Ethiopian government simultaneously intensifies its crackdown on the Somali population on its territory and abroad.

All of these elements play together and make a safe and healthy life for the population of the Ogaden impossible, in many cases. One can affirm that in this context, the Ethiopian government uses hunger and thirst as weapons of war. By denying the population’s adequate access to food, water and other basic services, the authorities seek to control, subjugate or silence the already marginalised. As of now, the political situation has also started to crumble from within the authoritarian regime, as the pressure of the population is increasing. Hopes for an improvement were raised on 3 January 2018, when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn reportedly announced the release and pardon of political prisoners, before they were dashed 24 hours later, Desalegn having been allegedly misquoted by the media.

The UNPO calls upon the international community to intervene in this dificult context for Ethiopia. The European Union (EU) in particular, as one of the largest donors of foreign aid to Ethiopia, must use its influence and positive reputation in the country to ensure the situation will not escalate and lead to the implosion of the State, which would have devastating consequences for Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa and Europe altogether.

To view and download the briefing note, please click here.

Photo courtesy of tristam sparks @Flickr.com