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Somali, Afar border conflict wanes after last week’s civilian casualties

Fresh clashes between militias from the Afar and Somali regions erupted last week, less than a month after a reconciliation committee was established with the aim of resolving the longstanding disputes in the border areas between the two regions (Photo: Jeilu TV)

Addis Abeba – Following the recent clashes between militias from the Afar and Somali regions near border areas last week, there has been a gradual decrease in tensions.

Abo Awel, a resident of the Gabi Rasu Zone in the Afar region, informed Addis Standard that while gunfire was audible in the area until Saturday, there has been an improvement in the situation since yesterday.

“However, militants from both factions continue to occupy disputed areas,” he added.

Inhabitants of these areas reported fresh clashes occurring earlier last week in locations bordering the two regions, particularly in the Gabi Rasu Zone within the Afar region and the Sitti Zone of the Somali region.

According to residents who spoke with Addis Standard, the conflict has resulted in casualties and injuries affecting individuals from both sides.

Ahmed Ali, a resident of the Gabi Rasu Zone, alleges that the conflict commenced with an assault by militants originating from the Somali region while civilians were involved in forage activities.

He further contends that this attack, which coincided with the period of Ramadan fasting, seems to represent “a calculated effort to forcibly annex territory within the Afar region.”

According to Ahmed, the aftermath of the recent clash has led to a significant loss of civilian lives.

“There have been at least 20 reported fatalities, while 10 individuals have sustained injuries,” he disclosed. “Some of the injured people are presently undergoing medical treatment at Mohammed Akle Memorial General Hospital.”

A healthcare professional at Mohammed Akle Memorial General Hospital verified to Addis Standard that a minimum of 11 individuals had been hospitalized due to injuries, with one individual having passed away upon arrival.

A resident of the Sitti Zone, who spoke with Addis Standard under the condition of anonymity, provided an account of the unfolding situation from the perspective of the Somali region.

According to the informant, the initial attack was perpetrated by militants from the Afar region against civilians residing in Sitti Zone. The resident also claims to have personally witnessed a relative fall victim to the aggression of militants.

According to witnesses, the consequence of this aggression has been catastrophic.

“At least 25 civilians have lost their lives, and over 20 have sustained injuries,” the informant stated. “The injured individuals are currently receiving medical treatment at Beki Hospital.”

The longstanding conflict between communities residing in these regions has led to numerous casualties and extensive property damage.

In November 2022, Addis Standard reported a tragic incident in which at least 18 civilians lost their lives, with several others sustaining injuries in clashes along the border areas of the Somali and Afar regions.

The most recent conflict, occurring last week between the communities of the Afar and Somali regions, erupted less than a month following the establishment of a reconciliation committee aimed at resolving the enduring disputes in areas bordering the two regions.

The reconciliation committee was formed, comprising representatives from both regions as well as independent entities tasked with overseeing the progress of reconciliation efforts.

The Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council has undertaken the role of mediator, facilitating a reconciliation process and assuming the responsibility for supervising the committee.”

The resident of the Sitti Zone in the Somali region, who communicated with Addis Standard, asserts that last week’s attack, which took place shortly after the establishment of a reconciliation committee, is not merely coincidental.

“The militants from the Afar region specifically targeted civilians out of concern that the recently established reconciliation committee might show favoritism toward the Somali region in terms of territorial concessions,” the resident elaborated.

However, Ahmed Ali, a resident of the Gabi Rasu Zone in the Afar region, alleges that tensions flared up again with the onset of the Ramadan fasting period. He suggests that although sporadic clashes and hostilities have persisted for years, there had been a relative decrease in violence over the past eight months.

Ahmed also claims external entities offered assistance to the Somali region during the recent attack. “Injured militants from the Somali region were discovered wearing clothing adorned with Djibouti military insignia,” he stated. AS

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