UN assesses needs, abuse claims in Ethiopia region – Reuters

August 30th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A team of U.N. aid officials and human rights investigators arrived in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region on Thursday to assess claims of abuses made by separatist rebels facing a military crackdown. (more…)

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – A team of U.N. aid officials and human rights investigators arrived in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region on Thursday to assess claims of abuses made by separatist rebels facing a military crackdown.

The 14-person mission which arrived in the regional capital Jijiga will also examine the food, water and health needs of Ogaden’s ethnic Somalis, largely cut off from the rest of the country because of security concerns and poor infrastructure.

Paul Hebert, head of the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ethiopia, said two members of staff of the U.N. agency for human rights were part of the mission.

“They will be looking into human rights issues,” he said.

Rights groups have accused soldiers of shooting civilians, burning homes and seizing livestock in its two-month campaign to root out Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels who killed 74 people in an April raid on a Chinese-run oil exploration field.

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi calls the ONLF terrorists and says they are funded by neighbour and arch-foe Eritrea, locked in a bitter border dispute with Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa’s biggest power.

The Ogaden, populated mostly by nomadic herders, has suffered cycles of drought and flooding.

Hebert said the U.N. team was planning to also interview local people in the outlying areas outside of Jijiga.

The ONLF, which is seeking greater autonomy for the region thought to be rich in oil and gas, said on Thursday the Ethiopian army was intimidating locals ahead of the mission.

“Villagers and pastoralists are being told they will suffer the consequences if they share details of war crimes with members of the mission,” it said in a statement.

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