For Immediate Release: August 17, 2007.
We, the undersigned, as members of Ethiopian human rights organizations, Ethiopian civic organizations and in the Ethiopian religious community, call for immediate action to stop the outrageous human rights abuses going on in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia that is causing wide-scale humanitarian disaster to the civilian population due to the fighting between the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zenawi and the Ogaden National Liberation Forces (ONLF).
We appeal to the Meles regime and the ONLF to call an immediate ceasefire so as to allow all humanitarian organizations, including the International Red Cross, the Ogaden Human Rights organizations and other such groups to gain access to the area in order to help the people who are suffering due to displacement, lack of food, lack of clean water, lack of shelter, lack of medical care and lack of any semblance of normal life necessary to their survival and well being. This crisis is worsening by the moment and will result in many more lives being lost, especially the lives of the most vulnerable — the young and the elders.
We call on those in the international community — the United Nations, the African Union, the United States as a key ally to Ethiopia, the European Union and other concerned entities and citizens to take a stand for the innocent who are dying as a result of this crisis. We call on you and all media to not be silent on this appalling human catastrophe before it worsens. Inaction and apathy will only bring about another example of shame to the international community if the Ogaden becomes another Darfur as good people fail to act with moral conviction, urgency and effectiveness.
To the regime of Meles Zenawi and to the ONLF, we recommend the following actions:
1. agree to comply with an immediate ceasefire, something that requires the total cooperation of both parties if it is going to be effective
2. provide for safe and unrestricted access into the region by all humanitarian groups in order to meet the needs of the civilian population
3. organize a dialogue with the goal of finding a peaceful resolution to this crisis and one that respects the universal human rights of all civilians and compliance with the Ethiopian Constitution and International Law.
Right now, we who are calling for this action have information from the ground on what is going on, but the Meles regime appears to be diverting the attention of both other Ethiopians and of those in the international community away from the tragedy going on in the Ogaden. Meles has called the ONLF a terrorist group, even while the regime is reportedly perpetrating crimes against humanity against the civilian population in the Ogaden and in other regions of the country. The Meles regime may believe that classifying the ONLF as terrorists would open up a means to legitimize the killing of Ogadeni civilians. However, according to representatives from the ONLF, they believe they must defend the Ogadeni people and call on the Meles regime to cease committing human rights atrocities against their people.
This past week, Meles was on Ethiopian television warning Ethiopians to not speak up for the ONLF as they are terrorists and that his government intends to “crack down” on these “terrorists.” He went on to say that those who supported the ONLF would be supporting a terrorist group. Some would say that any support of the EPRDF/TPLF that is responsible for crimes against humanity should be considered a terrorist.
Additionally Meles seemed to want to focus the attention of the international community and Ethiopians inside and outside of the country on the upcoming Ethiopian Millennium celebration as well as to infer that the majority of Ethiopians should be happy that he had released the CUDP leaders and that their minds should be on these things instead of what was going on in the Ogaden.
Instead, Ethiopians should say a loud “NO” and speak out for Ethiopian Ogadenis like we spoke out in protest of the student protesters in Addis Ababa in June and November of 2005 and for the Opposition leaders who were just released.
We speak laud with one voice for our brothers and sisters of the Ogaden as well as for those left in the prisons throughout our country and use the same volume we did for these groups until we all are free! We must continue to rally, protest and advocate for all Ethiopians until the killing, torture, rape, detention and man-made humanitarian crises, causing untold suffering to our people, stop.
We call on the international community and all peace-loving people to stand up, in real life and in practical actions, for the principles you have established based on universal values of humanity and justice.
For additional information, please contact: Mr. Girma Kassa
Anuak Justice Council
Ethiopian Media Forum (EMF)
Ethiopian American Association of Portland
Kaliti Peace Advocacy Group
Network of Ethiopian Scholars Scandinavian Chapter
Ogaden Human Rights Committee
Ogaden Voice for Peace
Ogaden Empowerment Initiatives
Ogaden Youth Network