18 March 2014
The Ogaden region is located inside Ethiopia but its people are ethnic Somalis and Muslim by religion.
World Bulletin / News Desk
More than 300 members of South Africa’s Ogaden community on Tuesday protested outside the Pan-African Parliament in Johannesburg to demand that the Ethiopian government halt alleged human rights abuses against their people back home.
“We decided to hold this protest outside the Pan-African Parliament because the Ethiopian prime minister is here and we want members of the Pan-African Parliament and heads of state to hear our voices,” Mohamed Dahir Adan, chairman of South Africa’s Ogaden community and protest organizer, told Anadolu Agency.
Ogaden region is located inside Ethiopia but its people are ethnic Somalis and Muslim by religion.
For over 100 years, the region has remained a center of conflict, as Somalis there have fought to secede from Ethiopia and establish their own country.
“We’re tired of the Ethiopian occupation; we want freedom,” one female protestor, who identified herself only as Hawa, told AA.
“The world should hear our cries and help us.”
The Ethiopian prime minister is currently attending closing ceremonies for the Pan-African Parliament’s fourth ordinary session, which opened two weeks ago.
Established in 2004, the Pan-African Parliament is the African Union’s legislative organ, to which each member state contributes five MPs.
It aims to ensure the full participation of the African people, along with grassroots organizations, in governance and economic integration.
The continental assembly holds two annual plenary sessions – in May and October – while its permanent committees meet in March and August of each year.
Protesters accused the Ethiopian military of abusing the Ogaden community.
“Ethiopian troops frequently come to our area and commit mayhem,” Ali Mahad, a member of South Africa’s Ogaden community, told AA.
“They kill our people, rape our women and go scot-free. We want justice.”
Protestors, many carrying Ogaden’s traditional flag, were kept some 200 meters from the parliament building, but their voices could still be heard as they continued to chant through megaphones.
“We want freedom,” they shouted as police looked on. “Down, Down Ethiopia.”
It was not the first time for the Ogaden community to stage demonstrations during a visit to South Africa by a high-level Ethiopian official.
In 2012, they interrupted a visit by late Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi by distributing pamphlets describing him as a “dictator.”
In a 2008 report, Human Rights Watch documented “widespread Ethiopian military attacks on civilians and villages that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity” in Ogaden.
The rights watchdog went on to cite several common abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture.