THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
March 23, 2008
Los Angeles Times

Ethiopia War Gets Little Attention

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. . . .

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[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]

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