The treatment of women particularly the Ogadeni [ETH30083.E]

In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, the Deputy Coordinator of the United Nations Emergency Unit for Ethiopia (UN-EUE) in Addis Ababa, stated that the Ogadeni Region is a recognized territory within the Ethiopian state (24 Sept. 1995). The region is administratively known as the Ethiopian/Somalia National Regional state, also popularly known as "Region 5." It is located on Ethiopia's eastern border with Somalia and "essentially" the Ogadeni are well represented in the regional administration. The Deputy Coordinator explained that the inhabitants of Region 5 are ethnic Somalis with relatives across the border. He also stated that because of frequent inter-border crossings between the two countries, it is often difficult to distinguish between Ethiopian Somalis and mainstream Somalis (ibid.).

Nonetheless, explained the Deputy Coordinator, the Ogadeni have their own administration and elected representatives. There are, however, political disputes within Region 5. The issue of contention is the numerical representation of the Ogadeni: the Ogadeni demand majority representation in the administration, arguing that they are numerically superior to smaller clans in Region 5. On the other hand, the smaller clans claim that their sum total outnumbers the Ogadeni (ibid.).

The Deputy Coordinator further stated that at the beginning of the regionalization programme in Ethiopia, Region 5 administration was based in Gode, and the Ogadeni were numerically dominant. Later, the administration headquarters were moved to Jijiga, and there was an effort to have a more ethnically and numerically balanced administration. As a result, stated the Deputy Coordinator, the Ogadeni lost some posts. Their main political party is the Ogadeni National Liberation Front (ONLF), whereas the Ethiopian Somali Democratic League (ESDL) represents the interests of the smaller clans. He stated that the ONLF is not a single entity but is composed of a moderate wing and a radical wing. The moderate wing advocates a merger of the ONLF and the ESDL but the radical wing is opposed to merger. The ONLF is also at loggerheads with the central government. The government implicates the radical wing in "terrorist activities" as it is associated with the Al Itihad Islamic movement in the southern part of Somalia (ibid.).

The Deputy Coordinator said that men and women in Ethiopia have equal voting rights. However, women do not enjoy equal social, economic or political status with men. Country Reports 1997 attributes women's low status in society to traditional and cultural practices, which view the man as the head of the household (1998, 117).

According to the Ethiopian News Agency, in the Giddole, Derashe and Konso rural areas of the south Ethiopian state, abduction of women for marriage is reportedly a common practice. It goes unreported because '"abduction is being accepted as part of the culture of the society"'(21 Oct. 1997). The Ari women of Bakogazer Woreda of South Omo Zone reportedly have no say and/or rights in matters relating to marriage, divorce and inheritance (ibid., 6 Oct. 1997). The Addis Tribune reports that "Ethiopia at present do not have laws that protect women from domestic assaults" (17 Apr. 1998). Family conflicts are often handled by family arbitration councils, but a recent study conducted by the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), reportedly found these to be biased and more expensive (The Monitor, 18 Aug. 1998). "The institution of family arbitration has practically failed to attain the very basic objectives with which it was formed," according to the EWLA . It recommends the replacement of family arbitration councils with regular judicial institutions (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Addis Tribune [Addis Ababa]. "Ethiopia: NGOs, Activists Can Play Key Role in Protecting Women's Rights." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Deputy Coordinator of the United Nations Emergency Unit for Ethiopia (UN-EUE), Addis Ababa. 24 September 1998. Telephone interview.

Ethiopian News Agency (ENA). 21 October 1997. "Ethiopia: Abduction of Women Still Persists in Southern Ethiopia." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 6 October 1997. "Ethiopia: Ari Women Bear Excruciating Cultural Burden." (Africa News/NEXIS)

The Monitor [Addis Ababa]. Seble Bekele. "Ethiopia: Of Family Arbitration Councils & The Rights of Women." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Research Bulletin: Political, Social and Cultural Series [Oxford]. January -September 1998. Vol. 35. Nos. 1-6.

_____. January - December 1997. Vol. 34. Nos. 1-12.

Horn of Africa Bulletin [Uppsala]. Bi-monthly. January - June 1998. Nos. 1-3.

_____. January - December 1997. Vol. 9. Nos. 1-6.

The Indian Ocean Newsletter (ION). January-September 1998. Nos. 794-824.