Ethiopia: Communal Violence Displaces Over 700,000 People

Ethiopia: Communal Violence Displaces Over 700,000 People

Communities in Oromia and Somali regions have since last July been clashing over resources.

(Cameron Tribute) — More than 200,000 of the 700,000 people who fled ethnic conflict earlier in the year between tribes people in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions are now in dire need of humanitarian assistance in camps where they took refuge, the BBC reported on November 20, 2018. It quoted the Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC as warning that few aid groups were present in the area.

“More families arrive everyday while resources are overstretched. People need lifesaving aid before it’s too late,” NRC Regional Adviser, Evelyn Aero warned. According to NRC, the total number of people displaced by the conflict that started last July now stands at 700,000. “We fled the violence with only the clothes on our back,” Abdirahman Moalim, a farmer who fled eastern Oromia last year, told the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Oromia and Somali are respectively Ethiopia’s two largest regions by geographical size, sharing a border of more than 1,400 km. While Somalis are mostly pastoralists, living from their animals, Oromos tend to be farmers, as well as pastoralists. Both communities inhabit the areas around the regional border. Historically, their relationship has been characterised by territorial competition which often results in disputes and conflicts over resources, including wells and grazing land.

Following intense anti-government protests that plagued Ethiopia during most of 2016, the government imposed a 10-month state of emergency, which was lifted last July. While this heightened state of alert calmed most of the restive areas in the Oromia region, it did not stop cross-border clashes in Oromia and Somali.

In February and March, 2018, hundreds of people were reportedly killed in the southern Oromia district of Negele Borena after an incursion by a paramilitary force, the Liyu Police, backed by the Somali region. Ethnic Oromos allege that the Liyu Police, which has previously been accused by rights groups of human rights violations, is behind the current attacks.