Ethnic clashes between Ethiopia’s Oromo and Somali regional states have escalated leading to reports of deaths and displacement in the respective regions. A top official of the Oromia regional government confirmed to the BBC that 18 people had died from the clashes – twelve Somalis and six Oromos were involved.
He further clarified that the cause of the crisis was as a result of an ‘invasion’ of the Oromo region by a special police unit and militia force belonging to the Somali side. An official on the other side also said it was rather Oromo regional police who were attacking civilians along their common border. ‘They are targeting unarmed peaceful Somali civilians in those areas,’ Mohammed Bile, an advisor to Somali regional state president told the BBC. The clashes which started over the last few weeks has meanwhile caused thousands of people to flee. Local media portals shared videos and photos of people being evacuated in large buses away from the conflict areas.
The Addis Standard news portal says the conflict which is predominantly in the east was now adversely affecting areas in the south and souh east of the country.
The Federal government had earlier this week spoken about efforts to mend the cracks between the two states. The military had been deployed to restore security whiles leadership on both sides were being engaged to avert an escalation.
Oromo activists have, however, maintained that the whole situation is part of a grand ploy by the government to further suppress demands by the Oromo people. They accuse Addis Ababa of using a special security apparatus, the Liyu police, to perpetrate the perceived tention between both states. The Oromia region – one of the biggest in the East African country, was at the heart of spreading anti-government protests last year. It led to a security crackdown that killed thousands with massive arrests recorded.
In October 2016, the government declared a state of emergency to quell the protests. The six-month measure was extended by four months upon expiration in April 2017. It was lifted in August after a ‘return to peace.’