Ethiopian rebels accuse government of trying to commit genocide – The Associated Press

September 13th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

An Ethiopian rebel group said on Thursday the international community must act to stop “yet another preventable African genocide,” a charge the government denies. (more…)

An Ethiopian rebel group said on Thursday the international community must act to stop “yet another preventable African genocide,” a charge the government denies.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front said in a statement that the government was punishing civilians for the activities of the rebels and that a recent U.N. fact-finding mission had not visited areas where war crimes were being committed.

“The Ethiopian regime’s policy in Ogaden continues to be a campaign of state-sponsored terror that largely avoids engagements with ONLF forces and instead focuses on collectively punishing our civilian population,” the statement said. “Victims of the regime’s war crimes include victims of rape, torture, gunshot wounds and those fleeing burnt villages”.

It urged the U.N. to investigate further in the region, saying a recent trip had been too tightly controlled by the government.

“The United Nations must have access to all parts of Ogaden and not be limited to routes approved by the regime as was the case with the recent U.N. Fact Finding Mission,” the group said.

The mission was sent after months of fighting after Prime Minister Meles Zenawi launched a crackdown on the group after they killed 74-memebrs of a Chinese-run oil exploration team earlier this year.

Bereket Simon, the special adviser to the Prime Minister, dismissed the rebels claims.

“They said it is good that the U.N. has sent the fact-finding mission. And now when the facts from the ground are found to be not supporting their claims, they are fighting the fact-finding mission,” he said.

The U.N. has not yet published a report. International aid agencies, including the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, say they are being denied access to the region by officials. The ONLF says there are thousands of refugees fleeing to Somalia, but there is no way to independently verify their claims.

The group is fighting for greater political rights for the region, which is ethnically Somali. The Ethiopian government accuses the rebels of being terrorists funded by its archenemy Eritrea.

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