2 Apr 2009

Ethiopia: Ogaden ricochets back to ExCeL

Ethiopians, Africans protest at G20Watch out for my colleague Alex Thomson’s report tonight on how the much-hyped G20 protests, policed at a cost of millions, were today dominated by a few hundred Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans, which was not what much of the media, on hand in case of a scuffle, had in mind.

They were protesting about human rights abuses pepetrated by the government of Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, interviewed by this programme yesterday (see interview below). 

Some of you have complained that my interview was not tough enough. Point taken.

Though today’s protesters were handing out leaflets referring to our film from last September about what has been going on in the Ethiopian region of Ogaden.

It was a very difficult film to make. Our cameraman walked 20 miles into the bush, to find skeletal villagers complaining that Ethiopian troops were deliberately depriving them of food as part of a “scorched earth” policy against Ogaden National Liberation Front or ONLF rebels.

Not long after the film was broadcast, the regional governor was sacked. How much else has changed is hard to say; in the past, both NGOs and journalists have been told to leave the area, and indeed we were escorted out of the town of Degebur not long after we had arrived.

So it was strange to see the very same issues – largely ignored by the western press – ricochet back to the outskirts of the Excel centre in London today. Which goes to show that in a globalised world, a far away conflict is not so far away, after all.

UPDATE: the Channel 4 News video report on the protest can be watched below.