Despite Nationwide State of Emergency, Several Border Incursions Leave More Than 100 Dead In East and South East Ethiopia
Despite a six month nationwide state of emergency declared in Oct. 2016 and was hoped to restore a military style law and order throughout the country, weeks-long cross border incursions by armed militiamen into many localities in eastern and southern part of Oromia, (bordering the Ethiopian Somali regional state, in east and south east Ethiopia) have left more than 100 people dead and the destruction of unknown amount of properties, a local resident said in a phone interview with Addis Standard.
According to Abdurrahman Dubaa, a resident of Chinaksan town in east Hararghe, some 630km east of the capital Addis Abeba, many of the militiamen conducting cross border raids in various localities, including Chinaksan, Babile, Gursum and several other villages, are members of the Liyu Police, a special paramilitary force set up by the Somali regional state with the help of the federal government to counter rebel groups operating in the restive Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia, and are stationed in and around Ethiopia’s Somali regional state.
The border incursions have also affected areas in West Hararghe especially Bordede woreda, “where more than 30 civilians were killed overnight on Wed. Feb 22,” according to Abdurrahman. In south east of Ethiopia, some 450 km off the capital Addis Abeba, similar incidents have occurred in Bale zone in Swena, Meda Wolabu and Dawe Serer woredas, among others; as well as in Liben and Gumii Edelo woredas in Guji Zone of the Oromia regional state in southern Ethiopia. Abdurrahman further said that the number of people killed so far in various places in the last two weeks only was well “over 100.”
Admitting the incursions, Addisu Arega Kitessa, bureau head of the Oromia government communication affairs office, wrote on his Facebook page that armed militiamen “coming from the Somali regional state have engaged in military raids inside these woredas on several occasions.” Addisu further stated that the reason for these incursions by the armed militiamen was twofold.
“The first is border expansion,” he wrote, “There are incidents that after crossing over to these areas, the armed militiamen engage in acts of hoisting the Ethiopian Somali regional state flag claiming the areas to be part of the Somali regional state,” he said.
The second reason is economic, according to Addisu. “After attacking the areas, these armed militiamen engage in looting of properties.” He further admitted that “lives were lost” in the last two months, but fail short of mentioning the exact number. He also fail short of identifying who exactly these armed militiaman were. However, he cautioned that the incidents have nothing to do with the people of both regions and the regional governments, adding, both the Oromia and the Ethiopian Somali regional governments were trying to “solve the matter peacefully”. Members of the command post tasked to implement the state of emergency were called to intervene in some areas, according to Addisu.
When asked by Addis Standard if the presence of members of the command post was helping to contain these deadly border incursions, Abdurrahman simply said, “[they are] becoming part of the problem than the solution.” Abdurrahman claimed there were several incidents where members of the command post have fired at civilians, a claim Addis Standard could not corroborate due to lack of sources willing to come forth.
In a statement sent to Addis Standard, an organization called Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, said, in the past six months “hundreds of Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police… have entered into Oromia villages, attacked and killed and abducted hundreds of Oromos and looted properties; over 750 goats, sheep, and camels were taken.” The organization claims the number of people killed in recent skirmishes is more than 200.
On Thursday March 02, during a televised meeting of Caffee Oromia, the region’s parliament, which was chaired by Lemma Megerssa, president of the region, several members of the parliament were seen voicing their frustrations in what they indisputably asserted were the “violence and killings perpetrated” by the Liyu Police, but also by members of the federal police force, on several villages bordering the two regions. “