Ethiopia Forces Untrained Civilians Into War

Clerks, teachers, administrators sent into action against Ogaden rebels
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2007 11:08 AM CST
John Holmes, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief, right, greets residents of Kebridehar in the eastern Ethiopian region of Ogaden, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007. Holmes urged officials to allow freedom of movement...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Ethiopa's overstretched army is forcing untrained civilians into the bush to fight guerrillas, the New York Times reports. Office clerks, teachers, and other white-collar workers face imprisonment or torture if they refuse to comply, but many have been killed in battle, say aid workers. “We don’t know how to operate guns, but the government sent us to the front lines,” said one civil servant.

"It’s terrifying,” said a teacher who was pulled from school and put in a militia. “You can’t see the rebels when they’re shooting at you. And the Ethiopians will kill you if you try to run.” The government, which has most of its army in Somalia or near the Eritrea border, denies the charges and says the civilians have volunteered for duty.