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Ethiopian Rebels Warn "African Genocide" Unfolding In Ogaden
NAIROBI, September 13, 2007 – Ethiopian rebels on Thursday urged the world to bring an end to an army crackdown in the restive Ogaden region, warning that another "African genocide" is unfolding.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) said thousands of displaced civilians had fled to neighbouring Somalia without food and medicine over the past four months.
"We call on donor nations to bear pressure on the Ethiopian regime to end its brutal campaign against our civilian population and allow international journalists and humanitarian organisations to travel and operate freely in Ogaden," ONLF said in a statement.
"The United Nations bears a particular responsibility to thoroughly investigate war crimes in Ogaden and halt the unfolding of yet another preventable African genocide."
In addition, the rebels called on the UN to deliver humanitarian supplies to fleeing civilians, some from razed villages and a number of whom are victims of rape, torture and gunshot wounds.
"These fleeing civilians provide the best testimony of the policy of collective punishment being pursued by the Ethiopian regime in Ogaden," the statement added.
"The plight of these families shows the world that despite the regimes denials, war crimes continue in Ogaden."
The Ethiopian military launched a crackdown on the region, which is slightly smaller than Britain and has a population of about four million, following an attack by the ONLF rebel group against a Chinese oil venture that left 77 people dead.
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes last week denounced Addis Ababa's decision to expel two global charities -- the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and International Committee for the Red Cross -- from the area.
Predominantly barren, the Ogaden has long been extremely poor, but in recent years the discovery of gas and oil has brought both hopes of wealth, and new causes of conflict.
Ethiopian authorities have accused arch foe Eritrea of supporting the Ogaden separatists. The Eritreans have denied the accusation.
Formed in 1984, the ONLF is fighting for the independence of ethnic Somalis in Ogaden, who they say have been marginalized by Addis Ababa.