Monday, March 25, 2013

International Unawareness About Genocidal Campaign In Ogaden Ethiopia

The Ethiopian government tries to keep the rest of the world in the dark as to what Genocide Watch calls a “genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali Population". 
Below is an article published by CounterPunch:
“Every night, they took all of us girls to [interrogations]. They would separate us and beat us. The second time they took me, they raped me… All three of the men raped me, consecutively”.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) report in Collective Punishment, along with 15 other female students, this innocent 17 year-old Ogaden  girl, was held captive for three months in a “dark hole in the ground” and raped 13 times. This is just one of countless accounts of abuse, from within the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, where it is widely reported criminal acts like these are perpetrated by the Ethiopian military and paramilitary forces on a daily basis. Untold atrocities like this; past and present are awaiting investigation, amid what is a much-ignored, little known conflict in the Horn of Africa.
In an attempt to hide the facts from the rest of the world, in 2007 the Ethiopian government banned all international media, and expelled many humanitarian aid groups from the area. It is reputed that any Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) allowed to stay do so on the condition that they sign a waiver document, agreeing not to report human rights violations by the government. Ethiopia, Leslie Lefkow of HRW states, “is one of the most difficult places to work for human rights groups or humanitarian agencies on the African continent”, and the Ogaden (a barren land, littered with military remnants from past conflicts), “is one of the most difficult places to work in Ethiopia.” There are “huge challenges to doing investigations on the ground because the security apparatus of the government is extremely extensive and permeates even the lowest levels, the grass roots, the village levels”, where regime spies and informers operate, reporting anything and anyone suspicious.
Information about life within the region comes from whispering sources on the ground, and from those who have fled the violence, and are now living outside Ethiopia. Many are in refugee camps in Kenya and Yemen, from where they recount stories of horrific abuse. Mohammed, from the Dhadhaab (or Dadaab) camp in Kenya, described to Ogaden Online (OO) 1/12/2012 how he was captured by the Ethiopian military, accused of being a supporter of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and mercilessly tortured. “They hogtied me”, he said, “and then flogged me while pinned down.” Mohamed’s face “was disfigured to the point where he can’t be recognized”. Refugees support Amnesty International’s (AI) findings of “torture and extrajudicial executions of detainees in the region” – women tell of multiple gang rapes, their arms, feet and necks tied with wire, for which they bear the scars, men speak of barbaric torture techniques at the hands of the Ethiopian military and paramilitary – the notorious, semi legal, completely barbaric Liyu Police, who, Laetitia Bader of HRW says, “fit into this context of impunity where security forces can do more or less what they want”.
The ONLF is cast as the enemy of the state, and regarded, as all dissenting troublesome groups are, as terrorists. They in fact won 60% of seats and were democratically elected to the regional parliament in the only inclusive open elections to be held, back in 1992. Civilians suspected, however vaguely of supporting the so-called ‘rebels’, are forcibly re-located from their homes. The evacuated villages and settlements, emptied at gunpoint HRW (CP) record, “become no-go areas” and in a further act of state criminality, “civilians who remain behind risk being shot on sight, tortured, or raped if spotted by soldiers”. Children, refugees report are hanged, villages and settlements razed to the ground and cattle stolen to feed soldiers: HRW record (CP), “water sources and wells have [also] been destroyed”. Systematic, strategic methods of violence and intimidation employed by the Ethiopian regime, that has, Genocide Watch (GW) state, “initiated a genocidal campaign against the Ogaden Somali population”.
Pervasive pernicious control
Spearheading the Governments campaign of terror in the region is the Liyu Police. A force of 10,000-14,000 18-20 year olds, with little or no knowledge of criminal law or human Rights, David Mepham UK Director of HRW told The Guardian 15/01/2013, that “for years we have documented egregious human rights abuses committed by the Liyu police, including the March 2012 extra-judicial execution of 10 men in their custody and the killing of nine other villagers”. Established in 2005 the Liyu initiative was the brainchild of a group led by the current regional President. His Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) regime was and remains, at war with the ONLF, who are seeking self-determination for the five million ethnic Somali’s, in line with their constitutional rights under the governments Ethnic Federalism policy.
The EPRDF is a highly controlling repressive regime, which has extended its pervasive reach in the nine districts of the Ogaden, to where, HRW (CP) records, “security committees, which exist at every administrative level [and]… include members of the armed forces, military intelligence, security officials.” The local Ogaden administration “does nothing but carry out Ethiopian dictates and represents the interests of the present, centralised regime,” the Ogaden Women’s Relief Association (OWRA) record in their study, A Place to Call Home. Dictates’ of government brutality and intimidation regimentally carried out by the Ethiopian military apparatus, fully equipped by their principle donor, America, who GW recommend, should “immediately cease all military assistance”.
Terrifying tools of oppression and imprisonment
The current regime operates under the premiership of Hailemariam Desalegn, who, true to his inaugural word, is following in predecessor Meles Zenawi’s shoes – has expanded the EPRDF’s repertoire of violence and control and, in addition to the range of violent measures employed, is imposing additional economic pressures, intimidation and extortion the name of the game. It is widely reported that In the midst of the current dry (or Jilaal) season, new taxes are being levied on water drawn from wells for livestock and domestic use. Sums of up to $150 are reportedly being charged to people living in rural areas, already burdened by an economic and aid embargo, which is causing civilians great hardship.
Additional tax demands are also being made – OO (8/03/2013) carry the story that, “reliable reports…. confirm the imposition of what the locals term an illegal ‘head tax’, imposed on the civilian population as well as on their livestock”. A local elder, whose “family consists of eight children and he and his wife” received an arbitrary charge of “150 Ethiopian Birrs ($8) per individual regardless of age or gender”, a total of 1200 birr ($56) – far beyond his means.
Kidnapping, with subsequent ransom demands, is another applied tool of terror. Family members, abducted and imprisoned, are released upon receipt of ransom payments, made either by relatives inside Ethiopia or those living overseas. Levels of extortion vary, with those in the west paying anything from “$300 to $1,500”; the McGill Report found “in some cases those amounts were contributions to total collected ransoms of more than $10,000”. This criminal practice is widespread: civilians are arrested and imprisoned, without regard to due process, often repeatedly as Ifraah, a 25 year-old Ogaden Somali woman, told the OWRA: “To be released, you have to pay the Ethiopian military from 1,000 ($56) to 2,000 birr ($112). And the price keeps going up. If they suspect that the family has money, they raise the price. Poor people often stay in prison much longer because they can’t raise the ransom. It happened to me twice. The first time I wasn’t yet married. I spent a couple of months in prison and had to pay 500 birr ($28); the second time, I had to pay 1,000.” It’s a business in human suffering, “arrests also benefit the military; it’s a flourishing trade. Innocent people are captured and have to come up with a lot of money to free themselves.” This illegal income, it is widely believed, is being used to supplement the paramilitary soldiers salaries’. “There are women thrown into prison five times, and each time they have to pay to get out. But economic factors are not the only ones. There’s also torture and rape”.
Civilians like Ifraah indiscriminately accused of supporting the ONLF are detained without charge. Leslie Lefkow of HRW makes clear that, “the way the EPRDF targets people, is an enormous problem from a human rights point of view”. HRW have been monitoring the situation in the region for the past five years, and have seen and documented a range of Human Rights abuses, including “arbitrary detaining [of] family members, often for long periods of time, sexual violence against women and girls, sometimes if they are viewed as being members of the ONLF or supporters or simply because they are family members [of ONLF supporters]. There is a kind of ‘guilt by association’ that is used to target the family members”, punishable by “summary executions… where suspected ONLF supporters have been executed in cold blood.”
Incarcerated in what are often makeshift prisons (e.g. deserted school buildings), prisoners held in appalling conditions, are tortured, abused and intimidated. Ina and Halima, two young women from the town of Saga, were, OO 21/01/2011 report, “suspended in the air by their ankles with their legs spread wide, while the soldiers poured water mixed with red chilli powder over them [and] applied [it] in and around the victims’ genitalia, causing severe burns.” In ‘prison’ there are no medical facilities and, Ifraah says, no food: “You get your food from relatives. If you don’t have anyone nearby, your relatives send money to people who live there so they can buy you food”; or inmates share what little they have. Abdullahi, held amongst, others without trial for nine months, related to OWRA how their captors “locked us in an underground room” Young girls are regarded as Liyu property, kidnapped, held captive and repeatedly raped, often falling pregnant in the process. “Little girls”, record OWRA, “13 to 15-year-olds, in prison and suddenly pregnant….at night you hear the girls screaming when soldiers take them from their cells” – their dignity and childhood stolen from them.
Government genocide
The government’s so-called counter-insurgency policy in the Ogaden is, in truth, a form of genocide and is regarded as such by GW. Is it ethnic hatred, fear and loathing of the ‘other’, or simply greed for the regions natural resources – the oil and natural gas that drives the government’s violent, multi-pronged approach? An approach that HRW (CP) makes clear, aims “at cutting off economic resources, weakening the ONLF’s civilian support base, and confining its geographic area of operation”. In pursuing these duplicitous goals, the Ethiopian regime seems to exist on an island of impunity, hidden from the international community; as The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) state, “there is a shocking lack of international attention directed at the situation” and, despite the “substantial documentation of the violations committed…published by human rights NGOs, governments and media outlets”, nothing is being done.
Let us be clear and state, unequivocally the findings of Human Rights groups: that the Ethiopian military and paramilitary is committing wide-ranging Human Rights violations in the Ogaden, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. “The situation” should, as GW demand, be “referred by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court (ICC)”.
Such Human Rights violations are not confined to the Ogaden region. GW consider “Ethiopia to have already reached Stage 7 (of 8), genocide massacres, against many of its peoples, including the Anuak, Ogadeni, Oromo, and Omo tribes”. The EPRDF, unsurprisingly, plead innocent to all such accusations of abuse and state criminality and dismiss allegations of human rights abuse substantiated by reports from international human rights group such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The Ogaden regional president claims, they “peddle lies and propaganda from our enemies”. However, if the Ethiopian government has nothing to hide, why don’t they allow independent investigators and journalists access to the Ogaden region?
The shocking accounts of violence and abuse are endless. The situation is clearly extremely critical and demands the immediate attention of Ethiopia’s main benefactors – America and sister donor nations, the European Union and Britain. To continue to ignore the evidence of state criminality and to blindly support the Ethiopian government in the face of such persecution, is to be complicit in the murder and violent abuse of the innocent people of the Ogaden region.

Rebels take presidential palace in Central African Republic - YouTube

Rebels take presidential palace in Central African Republic - YouTube: ""

'via Blog this'

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Obama: 'Peace is possible,' but see the world as Palestinians do -

By Tom Cohen. John King and Jessica Yellin, CNN
March 21, 2013 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Watch this video

Obama: 'We cannot give up' on peace for Israel, Palestine

  • NEW: President Obama receives Israel's highest civilian honor
  • Obama calls on young Israelis to pressure their leaders to work for peace
  • Secretary of State John Kerry will stay on to hold talks with Israeli leaders
  • Palestinian leader Abbas says Israeli settlements threaten a two-state solution
Jerusalem (CNN) -- President Barack Obama tried Thursday to invigorate the stalled Middle East peace process, urging young Israelis to pressure their leaders to seek peace with Palestinians while acknowledging the Jewish state's historical right to exist and defend itself from continuing threats.
In a speech in Jerusalem that Obama had said would lay out his vision for the region, the president urged Israelis to look at the world through the eyes of Palestinians but also said enemies of Israel must change their rhetoric and tactics to reflect modern reality.
"You are not alone," Obama said in both English and Hebrew, prompting a standing ovation when he declared that "those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist might as well reject the Earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere."
Hours before the speech on the second day of a Middle East swing, two rockets fired from Palestinian-controlled Gaza landed in southern Israel.

Photos: Obama visits IsraelPhotos: Obama visits Israel

President Obama arrives in Ramallah

Obama in Israel for historic visit
They caused no injuries or major damage, but served as a symbolic welcome to Obama's visit to the West Bank on Thursday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. A hardline group claimed responsibility.
Israel honors Obama
In another symbolic moment, Obama received Israel's highest civilian honor -- the Presidential Medal of Distinction -- Thursday night from Israeli President Shimon Peres at a state dinner that emphasized the close ties between their countries.
Noting the similarity between the histories of Israelis and African-Americans as former slaves who endured hardship before gaining freedom in a new land, Obama said, "Our very existence, our presence here tonight, is a testament that all things are possible."
The earlier talks with Abbas served as a counterbalance to Obama's meetings the previous day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, setting up the Jerusalem speech that addressed crucial issues of the stalled peace process as well as regional concerns such as the civil war in neighboring Syria and Iran's efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.
When Obama mentioned the name of Abbas in his speech Thursday, some boos erupted in the Jerusalem Convention Center among the audience of mostly young Israelis. He also was interrupted at one point by a protester's shouts, causing the president to joke that the heckling "made me feel at home" in reference to the caustic political climate in Washington.
Obama acknowledged the difficulty in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, but insisted that "peace is possible" and called on young Israelis to make it happen.
"Political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do," Obama said to applause, adding a familiar theme from his U.S. campaign speeches in declaring "you must create the change that you want to see."
Such a direct appeal to young Israelis was a "bold and courageous" move by Obama, according to Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who now is vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Noting that the president lowered expectations before his trip of what he could accomplish, Indyk told CNN that Obama now raised expectations "sky high" that he was going to personally work to make peace possible.
Kerry staying for more talks
Recently appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, who accompanied Obama on the trip that ends Friday in Jordan, will stay on to hold more talks with Israeli leaders, a senior administration official told reporters in a background briefing.
"We've done a lot of talking, a lot of listening over the course of the last two days, we'll do some more tomorrow, and then I think it'll be appropriate for Secretary Kerry to discuss next steps when he returns here," the official said.
Obama said in his speech that he believes "the Israeli people do want peace, and you have every right to be skeptical that it can be achieved," arguing that an end to the seemingly endless conflict is necessary and "the only path to true security" for Israel.
"Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine," Obama said. "Given the frustration in the international community, Israel must reverse an undertow of isolation. And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people is through the absence of war -- because no wall is high enough, and no Iron Dome is strong enough, to stop every enemy from inflicting harm. "
At the same time, he urged Israelis to empathize with the plight of Palestinians, using direct and harsh imagery to make his point.
"Put yourself in their shoes -- look at the world through their eyes," he said. "It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day. It is not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It is not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; to restrict a student's ability to move around the West Bank; or to displace Palestinian families from their home."
He added that "neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer," saying, "just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land."
Arab states must seek normalized relations with Israel, and Palestinians must "recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security," Obama also said.
Obama: Israeli settlements 'counterproductive'
He prompted applause from the young Israeli crowd when he criticized their government's controversial policy of building new settlements in disputed territories.
"Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable -- that real borders will have to be drawn," Obama said.

Israelis watching the war next door

Obama's open mic slip in Israel
On a personal note, the president told how he met with young Palestinians before his speech and they differed little from his own daughters, adding that he believed Israeli parents would want Palestinian youths to succeed if they had a chance to talk to them.
During his earlier visit to to Ramallah in the West Bank, Obama stressed the need for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution.
"The Palestinian people deserve an end to occupation and the daily indignities that come with it," he said at a news conference with Abbas, adding that Palestinians deserve "a future of hope" and a "state of their own."
Obama said he and Abbas discussed, among other things, the Israeli settlements and the issue of Palestinian prisoners. He called for shunning the old habits, arguments and formulas that have stymied the peace process and envisioned "two nations, two neighbors at peace, Israel and Palestine."
At the news conference and in his later speech, Obama said the foundation for a peace agreement exists if both sides can overcome internal and external obstacles and pressure, and can join together making the leap.
The core issues right now, Obama said, are achieving sovereignty for Palestinians and security for Israel.
"That's not to say settlements are not important," he told reporters. "It is to say that if we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved. So I don't want to put the cart before the horse. I want to make sure that we are getting to the core issues and the substance."
During a news conference on Wednesday with Netanyahu, neither leader mentioned the settlements, showing the sensitivity of the issue for the conservative prime minister who just formed a new coalition government after a narrow election victory.
In Ramallah on Thursday, Obama praised the Palestinian Authority led by Abbas but said Hamas, which governs Gaza, "has the responsibility to prevent" violations of a cease-fire with Israel such as the two rockets fired in the morning.
Abbas: Peace 'is necessary'
Abbas, however, said the Israeli settlements are "more than a hurdle to peace," calling them illegal and saying it was Israel's duty to stop building them.
At the same time, Abbas said Palestinians believe peace "is necessary and inevitable," and it should not be made through violence, occupation, walls, denial of refugee rights or settlements -- reciting a list of Palestinian grievances against Israel.
He envisioned a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem as capital -- a scenario unacceptable to Israel.
On Wednesday, Obama and Netanyahu offered a "good cop-bad cop" approach to Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Both countries have accused Iran of secretly working toward building a nuclear weapon, and Netanyahu made it clear Wednesday after his talks with Obama that he believes the president is equally committed to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.
In comments to reporters Wednesday and in Thursday's speech, Obama called for more diplomacy on Iran while endorsing Israel's right to defend itself as it sees fit. He also insisted that "all options" remain open -- code for a military strike to disable the Iranian program.
That prompted a warning Thursday from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, that Tehran would destroy Tel Aviv if Israel were to attack its nuclear facilities.
Obama also warned the Syrian government that using chemical weapons against opposition forces or allowing such weapons to be obtained by terrorists would be a "game-changer" in terms of U.S. involvement in the conflict. His administration has been criticized for not providing military aid to the Syrian opposition.
On Wednesday, Obama sought to assure Netanyahu and Israelis of his commitment to their security and to strengthen what have been strained personal and working relationships between the two men.
In what Netanyahu called a key development, the leaders announced new talks on extending U.S. military assistance to Israel for another 10 years past the current agreement, which expires in 2017.
CNN's Jessica Yellin and John King reported from Jerusalem and the West Bank, and CNN's Azadeh Ansari, Karen Smith, Michael Schwartz, Jason Hanna, Joe Sterling, Holly Yan and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report, which was written by Tom Cohen in Washington.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Ethiopian security forces kill US "terrorist" - Sudan Tribune

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
March 10, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – Ethiopia’s security forces said Sunday that they have killed the leader of a "terror" cell in the southwestern Gambella region, which borders South Sudan.
Ethiopian-born American, Omot Odol Ojulu, who was on the country’s most wanted list, is reported to have been killed in a joint operation carried out by federal and regional security forces in Gambela region’s Agnwak zone of Abobo vicinity.
Federal Police sources said Ojulu was killed after he refused to turn himself in and attempted to escape. One member of the security forces was killed in a fire exchange with Ojulu.
It is not clear if Ojulu is affiliated to a particular group, such as to the home grown Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) or Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebel groups, which are designated as terrorist entities by the Ethiopian government.
Reached by phone Gambela regional president, Omod Obang, on Sunday confirmed to Sudan Tribune that Ojulu had been killed, however the official declined to give further details on the matter.
Ojulu’s assault on a public bus in March last year killed 19 passengers.
He is also thought to be the mastermind of last year’s attack on Gambela based Saudi Star rice farm, an agriculture company owned by Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed al-Amoudi, which killed six people, including a Pakistani worker and injured eight others.
Following the attacks security forces then arrested at least 14 perpetrators, however Ojulu then managed to escape and had been under police hunt until his death this week.
Police said the deceased has recently been organising and recruiting members from the region to carry out more attacks.
The terror suspect had been charged under the country’s anti-terrorism law in absentia.
Ethiopia’s Gambella region, which is one of the most fertile and resource-rich part of the country has a history of tribal conflicts.
International human rights group organisations accuse the Ethiopian government of forcing tens of thousands of Gambella villagers from their land to lease it to foreign and state-owned firms.
The Ethiopian government has repeatedly dismissed those allegations.
In May last year, government spokesperson, Shimels Kemal, told Sudan Tribune that the accusations were “baseless” and politically motivated smear campaigns against nation.