Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Ogaden Looks To South Africa

Huud Badru Diin (center), spokesman of the Ogaden community in South Africa addressing a press conference in Johannesburg on Saturday.
     Huud Badru Diin (center), spokesman of the Ogaden community in South Africa addressing a press conference in Johannesburg on Saturday.Hassan Isilow                       

The Ogaden refugee community in South Africa has patiently waited for a year since they requested the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to investigate human rights abuses committed by the Ethiopian government in the Ogaden region of that country. "Last year we requested South African authorities to exercise jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the Ethiopian government under the implementation of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27 of 2002, if the offender is found within South Africa," Huud Badru Diin, spokesman of the Ogaden community in South Africa told a press conference in Johannesburg on Saturday.

He said the Ogaden region is geographical located in Eastern Africa, and 98% of the inhabitants are Somalis. Diin said the Ethiopian military regularly makes raids on Ogaden region where they rape women, abduct young girls and kill any males they find. When asked why they were being persecuted, Diin said because they are 99% Muslims and Somalis. "Although we are administered by Ethiopian, we have no rights in our country. We are considered to be foreigners in our own land. We have no hospitals, roads or schools. The Ethiopian government is suffocating us because we are Muslims and Somalis by ethnicity. This government hates us, Muslims," he claimed.
Following the constant raids on Ogaden region by the Ethiopian Military, a militant group was formed the 15th of August, 1984 by the Ogaden community to counter the attacks. The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is currently fighting to defend their territory and the rights of its people from Ethiopian military raids. Leaders of the ONLF are demanding to break away from Ethiopia and become an independent state, but the Ethiopia's government has refused and occasional makes aerial attacks on the area killing civilians and destroying property.

Diin said the international community has also remained silent on the on-going "genocide" in the Ogaden region. He added that their only hope is to get assistance from the South African government and civil society organizations. Last year, the Media Review Network (MRN) and attorney Afzal Abba, filed a 700-page complaint against the Ethiopian government with the commissioner of police, the head of the directorate of priority crimes investigation unit and the director of public prosecutions.

Abba said the complaint detailed incontrovertible evidence of human rights abuses and war crimes on the part of the Ethiopian government. However, he did not give names of the Ethiopian government officials accused of committing crimes in Ogaden region, saying that if the SA government finally takes an interest in this case and investigates the crime, then the country would have set a tough precedent of investigating rights abuses across the continent. This was critical since many African countries look up to South Africa in terms of democracy and the rule of law. VOC (Hassan Isilow)