Legal Framework for Civil Society and Law Reform

Case Notes: Sub-Saharan Africa

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 4, Issue 4, June 2002


Ogaden Welfare Society.

It has been reported in IRIN that an NGO working in the Somali region of Ethiopia won the first round of a court battle to avoid closure for “threatening national security.”  The Ogaden Welfare Society (OWS) successfully challenged in court a ruling by the Ministry of Justice that it should be banned from operating in the country. The OWS has now been told that it may continue working in the drought-afflicted Somali Region until a new hearing, which will rule whether it should be closed.  A second NGO called Guardian, which also operates in Somali Region, is understood not to have challenged the decision to ban it through the courts, although it hopes to remain working.

OWS argued that it was a victim of regional politics and that its lawyers would fight the ban all the way. After the OWS lodged its appeal in April, the ministry was given 15 days to provide information on why the NGO should be closed, but no details were handed into the court.   This is in part what caused the court to rule in its favor.

The Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA) – an umbrella organisation for NGOs – is also backing them and sent a letter on behalf of the OWS to the Ministry of Justice pleading with it to reverse its decision. The OWS employs more than 300 people, who are feeding up to 1,000 children a week. It also looks after 12,000 internally displaced people in Gunagadao, southeastern Ethiopia. A petition was handed in to the prime minister signed by 200 elders and chiefs in the region asking him to reverse the decision.

Guardian provides food to 6,000 people in Gode – an area hard hit by the 2000 famine. All NGOs operating in Ethiopia are required by law to register with the government.  Guardian – headed by Sultan Korfa, who is a member of the House of Representatives – was also hoping to retain its license to continue its work as a relief NGO.

*This item was made available through the “Africa-English” Service of the UN’s IRIN humanitarian information unit.  It does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.  For further information on this case, contact IRIN at