- The Ethiopian rebel movement Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is accusing "certain multinational oil corporations" of contributing to "genocide and War crimes in Ogaden" by clearing large tract of vegetation in their search for oil.
According to a statement sent by the ONLF to afrol News today, the armed rebels fighting for autonomy for Ethiopia's ethnically Somali Ogaden region may again attack foreign oil companies operating in Ogaden. In 2007, an ONLF attack on a Chinese drilling project cost 74 persons their lives.
The rebels accuse the foreign oil companies of destroying the livelihood of the local population, causing massive dislocations, hunger and thus indirectly assisting what the ONLF claims to be an ethnic cleansing campaign by Ethiopian authorities.
"Currently certain companies are clearing of all vegetation an area equal to 1600 square kilometres" in central Ogaden, "displacing thousands of the nomadic population and destroying the scarce vegetation in a vulnerable ecology," the statement alleged.
"Besides destroying the livelihood of the rural population in the affected areas, these companies are filling the coffers of this regime and financing its criminal activities in occupied Ogaden," it added. "This in turn has encouraged the regime of [Ethiopian Prime Minister] Meles Zenawi to undertake a scorched earth policy in the Ogaden and commit genocide in the Ogaden," the ONLF holds.
According to the radicalised rebel group, the foreign oil corporations' drilling sites are "guarded by mechanised Ethiopian Army troops who make fortifications and forcefully evict the local population by killings, rape, detention and destruction of property."
The ONLF rebels thus were viewing these companies as "accomplices to the Ethiopian regimes crimes," the statement added. While not issuing a direct threat towards the foreign oil companies, the ONLF said it had been "left no alternative but to take all measures necessary to protect the inalienable rights of the Ogaden people."
The Ogaden rebels have earlier been pinpointing severe and systematic human right abuses committed by Ethiopian security forces in Ogaden, though presenting little concrete evidence. Recently, research done by the US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed to document massive war crimes committed by Ethiopian troops.
However, the Ethiopian government, which refers to the ONLF as an Eritrea-supported terrorist group, issued a larger answer to the HRW report, holding that the group was basing its research on satellite photos, interviews with exiled ONLF supporters and hearsay. No HRW researcher had visited the Ogaden, authorities held, adding that the mentioned cases of killings should be attributed to the ONLF.
Addis Ababa authorities do pay much attention to the new threats and allegations in the ONLF statement. Only recently, the Ethiopian announced that the ONLF had been militarily defeated and that the Ogaden was now safe for foreign and national investment, including oil companies.
The Ogaden region is Ethiopia's most promising potential source of oil revenues, but exploration has so far been limited in the country. So far, mostly Asian oil companies have launched activities in Ogaden, including Malaysia's Petronas and China's Sinopec.
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