Shocking Sexual Violence Against Women in Ogaden

Save The Ogaden
Wednesday, February 3, 2010 - 19:00
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Initiative Type: 

As it is known Ogaden is cut off from the rest of the world and unfortunately gross human rights violations that are ongoing in Ogaden committed by the Ethiopian regime is totally contrary to the human rights principles. What is even worse, this crime is being carried out with complete impunity.

As researcher Georgette Gagnon, head of Human Rights Watch in Africa told reporters the Ethiopia's army has committed widespread atrocities, using tactics aimed at not only to defeat the rebel group (ONLF), but to collectively punish communities. As well U.S based Human Rights Watch stated that it has collected extensive evidence that confirms allegations the government in Ethiopia is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in its military campaign to crush the rebel movement in the restive Ogaden region.

The most devastating crisis among the widespread atrocities is the dismal state of womens's rights and the women and girls in Ogaden have endured over decades of devastating grave human rights violations.

In Ogaden, there is no protection from rape and sexual assault of women and girls. The cruelty with which the sexual violence is committed by Ethiopian army in Ogaden defies all description and that goes far beyond rape according to the testimonies recently collected from the Ogaden refugees in Kenya.

The widespread use of rape in Ogaden has been a horrific reality and the victims of crimes of rape and sexual violence are stripped of every shred of their humanity. In some cases the Ethiopian army and security forces have gang raped women in public, often in front of their husbands, relatives or the wider community. In numerous cases, male relatatives are forced at gun point to rape their own mothers, sisters or daughters and it doesn't stop there, after these traumatic events, the women and girls are either executed or kept as sex slaves.

Pregnant women, even those in the late stages of pregnancy, and breast feeding mothers are also raped. Many women have reported miscarriages as a result of gang rape.

Some cases after raping the innocent women and girls, they killed them by shooting into their genitals or putting some objects into their genitals. Those who survived the crime still suffer profound trauma as a result of this aggression, and the communities themselves are deeply offended by this practice.

The rape of women during detention with a gun bayonet aimed at destroying one of the most intimate and vulnerable aspects of the individual's dignity and torture with breasts cut off after being raped by the Ethiopian army and security forces is a common practice in Ogaden.

The number of HIV/AIDS virus infected women and young girls due to rape by Ethiopian soldiers are countless. There are many women and girls who became pregnant due to rape and could not live within the society as this is stigma that remains in rest of their life.

In addition the rape victims are taken against their will from their homes and villages, and forced to carry supplies or munitions for the Ethiopian troops, often for many weeks and they are used as a sexual slaves. In the night they sleep without shelter from the rain or cold.

The psychological terror is extreme and those who return home, often as rape victims, struggle to reintegrate into village life and those survivors of rape and sexual violence get no access to adequate health and psycho-social support. For many there is not even a village to return to just the ashes of burned hamlets.

The Ethiopian regime uses rape as a weapon of war. These women and girls are being attacked not only to dehumanize them, but also to humiliate, punish, control, inflict fear upon, displace and persecute the innocent civilians in Ogaden. The Ethiopian security forces are using systematic rape of Ogaden women and girls as young as eight to subjugate the Ogaden population and many relatives of political opponents were raped by the Ethiopian security forces as a form of revenge.

As some international humanitarian organizations and local human rights groups consistently reported that the number of unreported rapes is much more greater than those reported by the international organizations and many women hide the fact of being raped in the prison or outside prison due to fear of reprisals of Ethiopian soldiers and the cultural taboo connected to the act of rape, which prevented many women from openly discussing these violations.

Despite the extensive reports and systematic cruelty of evidence of rape and sexual violence and other serious human rights violations indicating crimes against humanity committed by the Ethiopian regime with complete impunity, the United Nations has undertaken no investigations to bring the perpetrators to justice and the donors of Ethiopia seem to maintain a conspiracy of silence about those crimes against huminty in Ogaden as head of Human Rights Watch in Africa, Georgette Gagnon said.

There is absolutely no execuse for lack of evidence to take an action and protect defenseless innocent civilians from indisriminate rape and sexual violence. However, the international community spotlight has seemingly overlooked the plight of the Ogaden people and lacks political will to response to the overwhelming evidence about the alleged human rights violations in Ogaden particulary the sexual voilence against women and in general the widespread atrocities.

We, Ogaden nationals around the world are deeply worry about the systematic human rigts abuses carried out with impunity in Ogaden and we believe it is the moral and legal obligations of the international community to promptly and vigorously act on those grave allegations and put pressure on the Ethiopian regime to respect fundamental human rights norms.

We welcome ambassador Donald Booth's recent comments and we understand that the United States has a valuable interest in the Horn of Africa, however it is fundamental importance to ensure that the United States demonstrates a commitment to human rights and justice in the Horn of Africa. As well the United States, UN and EU should put effective pressure on the Ethiopian regime to rein in the Ethiopian troops and to halt the human rights abuses in Ogaden.

In the meantime, international community should undertake a political negotiations aimed at ending the crisis in Ogaden as a factor of lasting peace, security and stability in the Horn of Africa.