f_0020481_17243 - REP RTAGE Jonathan Ewing is a...

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© 2010 World Policy Institute 81 An Ugly Exploration Jonathan Ewing addis ababa, Ethiopia—After the battle he was given the ugly task of counting the bodies and separating them—Ethio- pian from Chinese. This wasn’t an easy job. Each time he finished the tally, he’d forget the number and have to start again. This happened to Omar Muktar four times. He was shocked by what he had just seen and participated in. He counted the body of a Chinese oil worker who lay partially covered by a cardboard box. Next, there was the body of a uniformed teenager, one of the Ethiopian guards assigned to protect the Chinese. A group of five bodies lay across a wooden set of stairs near the barracks, where staff from China’s Zhoungyan Petroleum Exploration Bureau [zpeb] lived, just outside the town of Abole, in Ethiopia’s Ogaden desert. These are Muktar’s recollections. On April 24, 2007, he along with several hundred separatist rebels from the Ogaden National Liberation Front [onlf] attacked the Chinese-run oil installation near Abole. They entered the barracks in time to see the Chinese flee. Those who were too slow tried to hide under beds or in closets before they were shot at close range. Sometimes they were shot in the head, Muktar said, which made it very difficult to identify them later. Survivors were marched outside, lined up and executed by the onlf. The sepa- ratists rebels had warned the foreign oil companies, including zpeb, against work- ing with a government that was waging war against them. For the onlf, any oil money to be made would almost certainly go toward buying more of the weapons and ammunition used to suppress them. The government in Addis Ababa was humiliated by the onlf attack, which un- derscored its inability to provide security to international businesses operating in remote parts of the country. Worse still, the attack Jonathan Ewing is a Stockholm-based investigative reporter who traveled to East Africa on a grant from the Investi- gative Fund at The Nation Institute, researching the relationship between the government of Ethiopia, the separatist rebels, the petroleum industry and the global interests they represent. REP RTAGE
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WORLD POLICY JOURNAL • FALL 2010 82 occured just as Ethiopia was beginning to attract foreign investment. The oil compa- nies were shaken, and demanded meetings with top officials and security guarantees. The government complied. Within weeks, the military launched a counter-insurgency campaign, which continues today, and is characterized by the destruction of towns and villages, beatings, executions and the forced resettlement of thousands. Ethiopia’s Ogaden is home to a Somali- speaking people—an ethnic extension of the lawless nation to the east—and a profound sense of marginalization exists among them. Their homeland is one of the poorest and most underdeveloped regions of Ethiopia. But while many accuse Ethio- pia’s Christian-led government of persecut- ing the Ogadeni because they are Muslim, the real reason likely has more to with the
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