28/11/07 (B423) BBC Le sous-secrétaire général pour les affaires humanitaires de l’ONU visite les régions troublées de l’Ogaden. UN to visit Ethiopia trouble spot (Info lectrice – En Anglais)

By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News, Addis Ababa

The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, is set to visit the troubled Somali region – the Ogaden – in south-east Ethiopia.
Large parts of Somali region were off-limits to all outside humanitarian agencies for several months this year.

Meanwhile the Ethiopian army conducted counter-insurgency operations against rebels operating in the area.

The UN managed to negotiate access to the area. Mr Holmes will be meeting UN staff and local government officials.

Painstaking process

The situation in central Somali region – known as the Ogaden – has been extremely difficult for most of this year.

Residents have been caught between actions by Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels and army reprisals.

Normal food supplies – whether from aid agencies or commercial suppliers – have not been reaching most of the people.

There have been persistent reports of army abuse of the civilian population but for a long time no outside agencies were able to get in to the worst-affected areas to verify the claims or to act as a restraining presence.

But after months of painstaking efforts, UN humanitarian agencies acting together were finally able first to send a fact-finding mission to the Ogaden and then to establish two field offices out in the most troubled area.

Mr Holmes will be visiting one of those outposts to meet UN staff and local people, and he will also hold talks with government officials in the regional capital, Jijiga.

The situation in Somali region is even now not fully resolved and there are still problems getting food to people living away from the urban areas and the main road.

UN staff say they feel it is important to keep up the dialogue with the Ethiopian government at the highest level and Mr Holmes’s visit will make sure that the issue of the Ogaden stays high on the public agenda.