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Oromo Unrest - 2017

Nearly 700,000 Oromos and a sizable number of ethnic Somalis had been displaced over the year 2017 by a TPLF-enabled cross-border raid by the Ethiopian Somali state’s paramilitary force, the notorious Liyu Police. Charges of collusion between the latter and the top brass of the national army and intelligence services took the mistrust between the members of the EPRDF coalition to new and dangerous heights.

The Ethiopian government said it was investigating the violent incidents in Hawi Gudina and Daro Lebu districts, the latest round of violence in a region hit by deadly unrest in 2015 and 2016. Addisu Arega Kitessa, regional spokesman, said in a statement on 18 December 2017 that 29 ethnic Oromos were killed between December 14 and 17 by ethnic Somali attackers in Hawi Gudina. The violence prompted revenge attacks in Daro Lebu, which resulted in the killing of 32 ethnic Somalis, he added. The violence came after 16 ethnic Oromos were killed on Tuesday by soldiers trying to disperse a protesting crowd in Oromia's Chelenko town.

About 20,000 people were arrested during the state of emergency, which was lifted in August 2017. A number of people subsequently were released, but that the number of people still in detention remained high.

More than 55,000 ethnic Oromos had been displaced from Ethiopia's Somali region after a week of clashes with Somalis in which dozens were killed. Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region in the Horn of Africa, displaced thousands of ethnic Oromos, according to Negeri Lencho, Ethiopia’s information minister. The forced relocations were the latest fallout of simmering conflict along the border between Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions. Those tensions have boiled over in recent weeks, resulting in hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of displacements, Lencho told reporters at a press conference on September 29, 2017. The conflicts are the latest in a series of clashes that have ebbed and flowed for over 25 years. Some of the root causes remain unchanged, but new dynamics, including increased militia activity in the region and escalating tensions, make solutions more elusive.

Oromia and Somali share Ethiopia’s longest interior border, a meandering line from Moyale in the south to Mulu in the east. Parts of the border follow the Ganale Doria River, but the regional boundary mostly stretches between the Oromia grasslands and Somali desert. A common way of life has long connected Oromo and Somali people. The Oromia and Somali regions share language, religion and culture. In fact, some groups who speak the Oromo language identify as Somalis, and vice versa. Despite these close relations, the two ethnic groups have experienced intermittent conflicts over resources, including land and water, over the past 25 years.

Much of the confusion stems from the complex assortment of federal, regional, paramilitary and rebel groups engaged in armed conflict across Ethiopia. The Liyu police, a special police force based in Somali, have been accused of killing people in the Oromo ethnic group. But the Liyu have also fought the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist faction that seeks self-rule for Somalis. Limited access to the conflict zones makes it difficult to prove accusations of who is behind the current attacks.

At least 10 people have been killed and 20 others wounded during violent protests October 26, 2017 in the town of Ambo, in Ethiopia's Oromia region, after federal security forces fired on the demonstrators. The latest protest — which followed on more than a year of deadly protests in the region between November 2015 and December 2016 — was triggered by recent shortages of sugar. The local head of communications, Gadisa Desalenge, told VOA that the federal and special elite "Agazi" forces, who were deployed to the area, were responsible for the deaths. Desalenge also told VOA that some of the protesters, "infuriated by the killings," set several trucks on fire.

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Page last modified: 16-02-2018 13:18:50 ZULU