Ethiopia’s ethnic violence displaces up to 400,000- Irishtimes

Ethiopia’s ethnic violence displaces up to 400,000 – Irishtimes

Huge internal movement arising from clashes between Oromo and ethnic Soma

James Jeffrey 

At a camp for displaced Somalis in Kolenchi, this formerly prosperous business woman from Aweday was burnt during the riot and lost everything. Photograph: James Jeffrey

Night had fallen over the Ethiopian village of Melkabulo when local Oromo men went to the houses of ethnic Somali to tell them they must cross the river before dawn or they would be killed.

“Before we were friends, but they said: ‘You are Somalis, you can’t stay in our homeland’,” says one of the Somali men who fled the East Harerghe zone of the Oromia region. “The river was in flood as we crossed and took our clothes and possessions – we lost everything.”

At the same time that Somalis had to leave Ethiopia’s Oromia region, Oromo were being evicted from the neighbouring Somali region as tit-for-tat violence and evictions tore apart communities that had lived peacefully integrated, often for centuries, and in which intermarriage between Oromo and Somali was the norm.

“I was making my husband dinner in the evening but an hour after he returned from work he kicked me out of our home,” says Zahala Shekabde, a Somali married to an Oromo. “I pleaded with him, told him I loved him and that I have nothing else, but he said he didn’t want to listen and I must go otherwise he would hurt me.”

Estimates for the number of people displaced since ethnic clashes broke out in early September vary between 200,000 and 400,000 – one of Ethiopia’s largest internal displacements from violence in recent times.

At a camp for displaced Somalis in Kolenchi, this man was allegedly shot in the face by Oromo police. On the other side of his face are other wounds from when the police shot him while he was lying on the ground afterwards. Photograph: James Jeffrey

In new camps accommodating the displaced, both Oromo and Somali tell equally convincing stories of ethnic violence, primarily carried out, they claim, by each region’s special police, while exhibiting even more convincing physical evidence of that violence.