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News Analysis: Between accusations, denials, renewed violence along Oromia-Somali border area claims 4 lives, displaces hundreds

By Dereje Gonfa @DerejeGonfa

Addis Abeba, October 25/2021 – Sources confirmed to Addis Standard that at least four people died and hundreds fled their homes as a result of renewed violence in Chinaksen woreda, East Hararghe zone of Oromia region bordering areas with the Somali region on Wednesday. 

Abinet (name changed for security reasons) resident of Chinaksen town told Addis Standard an armed group from Somali region attacked residents in the Somali region bordering areas. According to him the armed group looted and burned down the houses. 

Abinet said, “The Somali region special forces crossed the border and attacked the residents,” adding, “We had this problem for a long time and it is only getting worse. We lost people in the recent attack. Our question is when this killing is going to stop.”

“We had this problem for a long time and it is only getting worse.,,”

Resident

Another witness Abdi (name changed for security reasons) told Addis Standard that four people died in the attack and two were wounded. Abdi said “They said this land is ours and opened fire. They burned down houses and robbed peoples belongings. Many people fled their homes. They don’t have food to eat and they haven’t received aid so far.”

“Usually the special forces are behind such attacks.”

Abdulnaser Mohammed, Chinaksen Woreda Administrator

Chinaksen woreda administrator Abdulnaser Mohammed corroborated both witnesses’ testimonies. He explained that there was a day-long fighting in the areas called Turanota and Korale on Wednesday. He explained “There is a division created by previous administrations. According to the information I have, the Jarso clan of Oromo and the Gari clan of Somali are engaged in conflict.”

According to Abdulnaser four people died and villages were destroyed. He said more than 600 households are currently displaced. When asked about the involvement of Somali Region Special forces Abdulnaser said, “Usually the special forces are behind such attacks.” Abdulnaser disclosed to Addis Standard that investigations show the involvement of fully armed Somali militias. 

“Both regional forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) are working together to ensure the safety of both communities.”

Mohammed Gurey, Deputy head of Peace and Security bureau, Somali region

Addis Standard contacted Mohammed Gurey, the Deputy head of the peace and security bureau in the Somali region who denied the involvement of Somali special forces in the recent clashes but corroborated Abdulnaser’s account of the conflict. He said, “Clashes are not about Oromo-Somali one. It’s between two clans (Jarso and Gari),” adding that efforts were underway to contain the situation, “Both regional forces and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) are working together to ensure the safety of both communities.” 

The renewed conflict echoes the memories of the conflicts in the border areas between Somali and Oromia regional states (2017 – 2018); where hundreds were killed, more than 1.2 million were displaced and thousands lost their properties. The conflict was attributed mainly to the Somali region administration under its former president Abdi Illey, but sporadic clashes continued long after his overthrow resulting in loss of lives, properties and displacement. AS

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