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U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops grabbed headlines in late 2006, invading Somalia to drive the Islamic Courts Union from power. Less known is the Addis government's massive persecution of its own people.

It is true that Ethiopia is at war — with itself. For more than a century Ethiopian rulers have grappled with insurgency, insurrection and rebellion, particularly in the east and south, where the Oromo and Somali people have long sought greater autonomy.

Human rights groups accuse Ethiopian security forces of committing grave abuses within their own borders. But Prime Minister Meles Zenawi remains a favorite of the West, particularly the United States, which sees him as a crucial ally in the War on Terror and an anchor of stability in a volatile region.

Are the allegations against Zenawi accurate? And, if so, is he a man who should be shaping American policy on the Horn of Africa? Zoe Alsop and Nick Wadhams spent a month in Ethiopia interviewing people across some of the country's least-visited regions, capturing the strains of a people under siege — by their own government.