By Thomas C Mountain,
Every year for a decade or more a million Ethiopians, 10 million and counting, have left, or fled, their homeland. While the television screens of the world have been flooded with images of North African migrants drowning off the Italian island of Lampedusa, the bones of tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees lay in unmarked graves along Yemeni shores or at the bottom of the Indian Ocean or Red Sea.
How is it you might ask, that this 10 million human tsunami remains almost unknown to the world? And why, why would ten million Ethiopians, one in every 8 people in the country, risking their lives in many cases, seek refuge in foreign, mostly unwelcoming, lands?
The answer lies in the policies of the Ethiopian regime which have been described by UN investigators in reports long suppressed with words such as “food and medical aid blockades”, “scorched earth counterinsurgency tactics”, “mass murder” and even “genocide”.
Most of the Ethiopians refugees are from the Oromo nationality, at 40 million strong half of Ethiopia, or the ethnic Somalis of the Ogaden. Both of these regions in southern Ethiopia have long been victims of some of the most inhumane, brutal treatment any peoples of the world have ever known (it has been estimated that a full half of all Oromos were wiped out during the western supported Abyssinian Imperialist colonialization during the late 1800’s by the forefathers of “Emperor” Haile Sellasie).
These past few years saw the worst drought and famine in the Horn of Africa in 60 years yet almost all of Oromia and the Ogaden affected by this catastrophe were prevented from receiving food and medical aid by the Ethiopian regime.
What country in the world is allowed to expel both the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders during such a humanitarian crisis and not be roundly condemned by the international community? Only Ethiopia.
In Somalia alone the UN has admitted at least 250,000 starved to death during this famine with estimates for the victims in Oromia and the Ogaden running at least this high.
500,000 people starving to death in a couple of years and no outcry from the world? At one point up to 1,000 people a day, mostly women, children and the elderly, were dying of hunger and all we got was a New York Times best seller on the CIA’s “dirty wars” in the Horn of Africa which somehow failed to condemn this enormous crime.
Ethiopia remains the largest recipient of international, mainly western aid, in the world. Recently sources in Addis Ababa from within the offices of the IMF have sent word that Ethiopia’s import bill has reached almost 12 billion dollars a year while exports are only $2billion. $10 billion a year in “aid”, “loans” or “investment” make Ethiopia entirely dependent on foreign good will to survive yet the world is helpless to prevent the enforced starvation of hundreds of thousand or over 10 million Ethiopians fleeing their country?
In the past ten years we have seen many reports on over two million Iraqi refugees and now another more than 2 million Syrian refugees. Yet more than twice this number of Ethiopian have become refugees and this fact remains unknown to the world?
When speaking of these crimes I am not speaking in the past tense for every day some 3,000 Ethiopians flee their homeland, almost 100,000 a month, another million or more this year. Many flee by boat from the shores of Somalia, heading for Yemeni shores and hopefully on to safer lands. How many boats sink with the loss of almost all onboard, or worse yet, have their passengers thrown overboard while still offshore will never be known. The international navies that patrol this region seem to care little for preventing the human trafficking mafias from carrying out their ghoulish trade, far to busy protecting the interests of the major shipping lines through these very same waters.
Have you ever heard of a drone strike or commando raid on a human trafficking headquarters? Are any of these vermin trading in human misery ever listed on international “Most Wanted” bulletins?
Why should they, for the criminals ruling Ethiopia not only are allowed to continue business as usual but actually see their cash flow in the form of “foreign aid and investment” increased by a third since 2010 while at the same time hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians starve to death.
So next time you are confronted by images of lines of corpses along the shores of Italy remember that this is something that goes on almost everyday in the Horn of Africa but doesn’t merit comment, let alone disgust and outrage by those most pious of commentators in the international media.
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Thomas C. Mountain is the most widely distributed independent journalist in Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He can be reached at thomascmountain_at_yahoo_dot_