Ethiopian blockade cuts off rebel region – Critics say many at risk of starving – By Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times News Service

July 22nd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

NAIROBI — The Ethiopian government is blockading emergency food aid and choking off trade to large parts of a remote region in the eastern part of the country that is home to a rebel force, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation, Western diplomats and humanitarian officials say. (more…)

NAIROBI — The Ethiopian government is blockading emergency food aid and choking off trade to large parts of a remote region in the eastern part of the country that is home to a rebel force, putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation, Western diplomats and humanitarian officials say.

The Ethiopian military and its proxy militias have also been siphoning off millions of dollars in international food aid, and using a UN polio eradication program to funnel money to their fighters, according to humanitarian officials, former Ethiopian government administrators, and a member of the Ethiopian Parliament who defected to Germany last month to protest the government’s actions.

The blockade takes aim at the heart of the Ogaden region, a vast desert on the Somali border where the government is struggling against a growing rebellion and where government soldiers have been accused by human rights groups of widespread brutality.

Humanitarian officials say the ban on aid convoys and commercial traffic, intended to squeeze the rebels and dry up their bases of support, has sent food prices skyrocketing and disrupted trade routes, preventing the nomads who live there from selling their livestock. Hundreds of thousands of people are now sealed off in a desiccated, unforgiving landscape that is difficult to survive in even in the best of times.

“Food cannot get in,” said Mohammed Diab, the director of the UN World Food Program in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government says the blockade covers only strategic locations, and is meant to prevent guns and other supplies from reaching the Ogaden National Liberation Front, the rebel force that the government considers a terrorist group. In April, the rebels killed more than 60 Ethiopian guards and Chinese workers at a Chinese-run oil field in the Ogaden.

“This is not a government which punishes its people,” said Nur Abdi Mohammed, a government spokesman. But Western diplomats have been urging Ethiopian officials to lift the blockade, saying many people in the area are running out of time.

The blockade, which involves soldiers and military trucks cutting off the few roads into the central Ogaden, comes as the US Congress is increasingly concerned about Ethiopia’s human rights record. Ethiopia is a close American ally and a key partner in America’s counterterrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa, a region that has become a breeding ground for Islamic militants.

Ethiopia’s decision on Friday to pardon 30 political prisoners who had been sentenced to life in prison could ease some criticism. But Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, is pushing ahead with measures to scrutinize assistance to the Ethiopian military more closely .

The country receives nearly half a billion dollars in American aid each year, but last week a House subcommittee passed a bill that would put strict conditions on some of that aid and ban Ethiopian officials linked to rights abuses from entering the United States.

The House also recently passed an amendment, sponsored by J. Randy Forbes, Republican of Virginia, that stripped Ethiopia of $3 million in assistance to “send a strong message that if they don’t wake up and pay attention, more money will be cut,” Forbes said.

  1. shotolay(mekonen)
    | #1

    that ONLF recist,facist,tribal,clan groups tray to split our country.this racist terrorist group long histery to distroy or distabilizing our land. this terror group supported by shabya and kinijit.shabya they have enough reson there is black gold(oil)this oil when come out ethiopia she became one of royal in the feace of the world.that whay shabya supporting this tribal terrore groups.when you see the other side kinijit co-operation with this terrore group or groups very confusion they talking about ethiopian unity the same time they are co-operating with rudeles enemy.this time woyane doin’g the things around ogaden region direct or indirect good for ethiopia becous atlist this terror groups to dangerous for our country futuer.woyane now what aver did this group it,s necesory becous they are aterror they need to deserve terrore nothing or no one morthan ethiopia.people this kinijit leaders they don,t care about ethiopia they care about there political chair.


  2. Andinet
    | #2

    God Bless YOU Mekonen
    Tell Them Like That For The so Called Opposition Party They Only Worried About Their Poltical Chair . Not The Real Activity All Around Abysinia . Negaty Bulla

  3. tadesse
    | #3

    the OLF has changed its policy of seccession, why is the ONLF trying to separate?? they are trying to use the current problem in mogadishu to secceed ogaden region. that should never happen!! DEATH TO ONLF!!! DEATH TO ALL SEPARATISTS!!!

  4. Mimi
    | #4

    Kinijit called for a national reconciliation and conference involving all Ethiopia political parties. It is Kinijits principle that all political problems can be solved through dialog. Kinijit doesn’t necessarily support other political organization’s agenda, but willing to work with them to create a stage for national reconciliation. That is exactly Kinijit demands Weyanne do. If Kinijit is open to sit around the table with a terrorist group such as Weyanne, what is wrong with doing the same thing with ONLF, OLF and EPPF? Kinijit willingness to resolve the Ethiopia complicated problem with discussion around the table and through democratic means is civil and shows how inclusive Kinijit is. It is Weyanne leaders with identity crisis, inability to think rationally and breading their enemies pretty much every day. Now, shotolya and “Andinet”, if you are concern go and bark on your monkey face Meles.

  5. fish
    | #5

    Woyane suporters are realy unrealistics and always labliling and name calling is your identity and please try to shout your mouth and learn from others. What do you know about tribalism and fashisim if you know then you wouldn’t support the current so called government.

  6. fish
    | #6

    i completely agree with Mimi .

    | #7

    Its so funny to hear such bad coment from woyanes supporter .first of all u have no idea what kinijit stands for ,kinijit struggle for to bring freedom for Ethiopian people not by making terores on its own people, like the reble leader meles, so u have to open your mind for peacefull means of struggle to be part of Ethiopian’s not like woyanes. wake up from ur dream of tribalism and fashism policy try to jion with Ethiopian’s.KINIJIT IS THE get peace ,freadom and development,so we will forgive you if you stop you stupid atitude.DEATH FOR SEPARETER WOYANE.VICTORY FOR UNITY KINJIT ETHIOPIA.

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