by Edmund Sanders
The teenager awoke under a pile of corpses to a pricking sensation on her
face. Ants were biting her eyelids and the inside of her mouth.
The pain, however, brought relief to the 17-year-old.
"I thought, 'I'm alive,' " Ridwan Hassan Sahid remembers. She felt blood
oozing from rope burns around her neck and the weight of a body against her
back. But fearing that the Ethiopian soldiers who had left her for dead in a
roadside ditch would return, she quickly brushed away the ants and shut her
eyes, then slipped back into unconsciousness.
The brutal assault and her miraculous escape mark one of the most chilling
stories to emerge from an unfolding tragedy in eastern Ethiopia that has
largely escaped the attention of a world transfixed by the humanitarian
crisis in neighboring Sudan's Darfur region.
Ever since exiting colonialists arbitrarily stuck a triangle-shaped wedge of
land with 4 million ethnic Somalis inside Ethiopia's border, violence and
suffering have plagued the region. Now, many of them have been caught up in
a war between the Ethiopian government and a separatist group known as the
Ogaden National Liberation Front.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed and tens of thousands were displaced
in the last year alone, though exact figures are unknown because the area is
remote and Ethiopian officials restrict access for humanitarian groups and
journalists. . . .
[To the east lies Somalia, where the descent into war is portrayed as
historical enmity between Somalis and their Ethiopian neighbours. Yet
Ethiopia's Christian regime runs a big risk in its border incursions, given
that a large portion of its own people are Muslim and of Somali descent. The
real reason is likely to be that the Ogaden region, which borders Somalia,
sits on a not yet exploited gas field.--Daniel Whitaker, "Race
for riches is Africa's torment," Observer, November 12, 2006]