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Short Cuts: Another American ally brings itself into trouble

map of ogaden 

(Map via Wiki)

A country the USA considers an important ally against Islamic fundamentalism is itself becoming a problem. No, not Pakistan this time, but Ethiopia: The government is trying to isolate the rebels in the Eastern region of Ogaden. A planned food aid block seems to have been dismissed now by the authorities after negotiations with the United Nations, at the same time, Red Cross members were told to leave.

The military blockade may bring, as observers fear, hundreds of thousands of impoverished nomads at risk of starvation. The human rights record of Ethiopia’s government has been giving Western diplomats a headache which has been becoming stronger lately. The blockade is aimed at the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an ethnic-Somali group fighting for the autonomy of the region. In April, they attacked a Chinese oil-exploration facility in the desert there, killing some 65 Ethiopians and nine Chinese, apparently with help from Eritrean intelligence.

Since then, Ethiopian troops have started an offensive they seemingly want to bring to a successful ending now: Human Rights Watch has criticised the troops for “destroying villages and property, taking away livestock and constraining people to relocate”, as one HRW-official said. The government record also includes torture, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings, as human rights groups have pointed out.

The US-congress is starting to take into accound the Ethiopian actions and plans to limit fundings. At the same time, the US government know that a stable (Christian) Ethiopia is a key player in the region. A war between Ethiopia and instable Somalia (most of Ogaden’s people are Somali) is very unlikely now, but an even further destabilized Ogaden could be a shelter for extremists who could turh the horn of Africa into mayhem, officials argue. At the same time, the perspective of backing a government that might soon be responsible for a new genocide might also bring the Bush-administration to a harsher judgement of Ethiopia’s current „anti-terror“-efforts.

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