ETHIOPIA: Shocking Sexual Violence against Women and Children’s Rights

By Aysheshum Yakume
Everyday life is what a person daily does, feels, and thinks. In this century protection of women
and children in the Ogaden region is a vital humanitarian concern”. In Ethiopia, things are
connected with cultural, religious and political believes of the people. But with the absence of
human rights and humanitarian senses and knowledge with poor cultural aspects with the
Ethiopian officials and army forces members, things like killing, displacement, rape and
corruption becomes normal and part of their daily and routine tasks. Most of the government
officials, and also security and army members are uneducated and from one clan. So things like
killing, displacement, rape and corruption becomes normal and part of their daily and routine
The livelihoods situation of the indigenous people in the Ogaden region
Ethiopian army and militias have systematically used rape as political tool and most potent
weapon to terrorize and displace populations and to target indigenous people “pastoral
community” in Ogaden. Human rights and humanitarian agencies have reported widespread of
sexual violence and children’s rights violations in Ogaden. “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”1. In 27 February
2012, the Ethiopian military and its associated militias (Liyu Police) raped 17 Women gang in
Lagahida and one died2.
In 8th February 2014, a young girl (14 years old), Caisha Abdullahi Haji Saalax has been raped
by Ethiopian government paramilitary forces in the Ogaden Region. Caisha has been taken by 8
paramilitary forces to military camp in the regional capital city of Jigjiga, Mr. Diyaar who is her
relative living in South Africa told Ogadentoday Press. Relatives said “the victim’s mother
[Fardowsa Abdi Samad] passed away two years ago, and she [Caisha] was the only girl taking
care of her three siblings”. Relatives are seeking justice but regional experts believe “they will
2 Read details of this organized crime at
not get justice … and even people fearing arrest to report such cases. The government may
accuse the family as defaming the government and there is no justice in the region”. “This is
unacceptable, that the government forces that are intended to protect the people to rape teenage”,
Miss Diamond who is relative of Caisha wrote that in social media face book3.
This is painful and acceptable. Caisha is 14 years old, but was raped by Ethiopian government
paramilitary forces. Caisha becomes sick physically and mentally, cannot stand up, and no one
helped her. Caisha is in critical condition and her health is deteriorating since she has almost bled
to death due to the injuries caused by the gang rape. Due to the cultural issues, Caisha will face
life of stigma in the community.
Human Rights Watch reported “the widespread violence, part of a vicious counterinsurgency
campaign that amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity, has contributed to a
looming humanitarian crisis, threatening the survival of thousands of ethnic Somali nomads.
These widespread and systematic atrocities amount to crimes against humanity. Yet Ethiopia’s
major donors, Washington, London and Brussels, seem to be maintaining a conspiracy of silence
around the crimes”4. African Rights Monitor’s press release in 18 August 2013 said “around
17,000 detainees are scattered in prisons and military detention centers across the Ogaden. Of
these, about 5,000 are women, who are routinely raped and often get pregnant in prison with no
care for both the mothers and infants5”.
Recently, local media reported about 200 children in Jail Ogaden without trial. Of these, about
150 are children under 4 years.6 All children are with their parents. Ethiopian government
arrested these children and their parents from rural areas and transferred to jail Ogaden. The only
reason for detention of the children and their parents is that they are indigenous people; Ogaden.
Peace Women reported the following “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”7.
Rape survivors have no access to medical treatment and protection, which were previously
provided by humanitarian agencies. Unfortunately, the ability of United Nations and NGOs to
3
report, monitor the situation and document cases has been severely hampered since 2007, when
the federal government restricted humanitarian operations and expelled several humanitarian
agencies (like ICRC, MSF and others) from Ogaden.
The Ethiopian army and militia (Liyu Police) have engaged in organized displacements,
collective punishments and as well as gang rape incidents in different villages of Ogaden region.
This means, an organized governments’ policy and strategy to spread diseases as well as HIV
and AIDS and other disasters in the pastoral areas. This kind of crocodile behavior and actions
has been trendy for the Ethiopian regime for a long time. Therefore, protection of the pastoral
people and their culture as well as women and children in the Ogaden region is a vital
humanitarian concern.
The humanitarian crisis in Ogaden is the worst one in Africa and Middle East. Since 2007,
Ethiopia government isolated Ogaden region from the World, blocked food aid and humanitarian
operations, restricted trade and blocked water points in the region. Because of the ongoing
military operations, and also humanitarian crisis and human abuses, government targets
journalists and aid workers. Women, children and older people are the most vulnerable groups to
suffer abuse and violence and misuse of humanitarian aid in this region. In August 2012, Federal
Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector (DRMFSS) confirmed “41% of those in
need of assistance in Ethiopia are in Somali region (Ogaden)”8.
Ethiopia is one of top 5 recipients of relief aid in the world. In the last ten years only, Ethiopian
government received about 6 billion USD from donor organizations. Most of the aid was
allocated to the drought and conflict areas, like Somali region (Ogaden), Afar and Gambella
regions, and also Borana zone of Oromia region, but nothing delivered or reached the needy
people in these areas. There is big game, business and trade in aid operations in Ethiopia as well
as Somali region (Ogaden). British government spends millions of dollars to the Paramilitary
forces linked abuses, Telegraph published on Jan 2013.
The United Nations report on the findings from the UN humanitarian assessment mission to the
Somali region (Ogaden) recommended the followings “the mission received reports and direct
accounts of serious violations of human rights, including substantive protection concerns for the
civilian population. It is the mission’s views that these reported human rights concerns require
independent investigation”9. Based on these facts, UN should deploy Women and Child
Protection Advisers to Ogaden and protect the children and women from the government soldiers
and militias”.
Therefore, International community and donor organizations should ensure safety and security of
the indigenous people of the Ogaden region and protect the women and children from these
crimes. The criminals must face the justice. United Nations and donor agencies should link
humanitarian ethics and accountability with their funding and support programmes, ensure that
their money reached the right people “needy people” in Ethiopia. All relief aid going to Ethiopia
should be reviewed and audited. The Ethiopian people should help their Ogaden sisters and
brothers and take actions against Woyane’s dirty work in pastoral areas of the country.

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