Ethiopia’s Liyu police blamed for deadly attacks in Oromia region
(africanews)—-The death of about 40 people in Ethiopia’s Oromia region at the weekend is being blamed on the Liyu Police, regional paramilitary force that belongs to the adjoining Somali regional state.
Local media portals including the trusted Addis Standard portal said the deadly attack by the Liyu Police took place in three seperate localities in Oromia’s East Haharghe Zone.
Negeri Lencho, spokesman for the Oromia state administration confirmed the attack and also pointed to the Liyu police: “The victims were all ethnic Oromos. The perpetrators were members of a paramilitary force.”
Addis Standard’s report detailed the circumstances and periods the attacks took place. It went further to cite corresponding news reports from the BBC’s Afaan Oromo service and of medical personnel handling some of the wounded persons.
The report quotes an official of the locality (Mayu Muluke) worst affected by the violence as putting the death toll at 37 with over 44 others having sustained varied degrees of injury.
The report added that a Mayu Muluke town police officer by name Mohammed Aliyi said the attack was a military assault by members of Ethiopia’s controversial Liyu Police “for reasons we are not clear with yet.”
Before Negeri Lencho’s confirmation of the attack, Oromia region’s justice bureau communication head, Taye Dendea had confirmed the incident via his Facebook page on Sunday. At the time he reported that 31 people had been killed, of whom five were women. Children and the elderly were among the victims.
Oromia officials stressed however that they were doing all it takes to restore security and to bring a lasting solution. The two regional states – Oromia and Somali – share a common border which spans several kilometers.
Ethnically motivated clashes have often led to deaths and massive displacements on both sides. The Liyu police under the command of the Somali region have been blamed for cross border raids whiles militias from the Oromia side have also acted in same measure as retaliation.
The Liyu police made the news last week when their former leader and president of the Somali regional state, Abdi Mohamoud Omar, was forced to resign amid a standoff between regional and federal forces.
News went around that government was to disarm the unit but late in the week, it was said that federal forces were to team up with the Liyu police to restore peace to the Somali regional capital Jijiga and other parts of the state.
Ethiopia: Paramilitaries ‘kill at least 40’ in Oromia region
Officials say paramilitary forces from the Somali region carried out cross-border attacks in Oromia’s East Hararghe.
At least 40 people were killed by paramilitary forces in eastern Ethiopia over the weekend, a senior regional official said, in the latest spate of violence driven by ethnic divisions.
On Monday, the Oromia regional administration’s spokesman Negeri Lencho said heavily armed members of a paramilitary force from the Somali region had carried out cross-border attacks in Oromia’s East Hararghe district.
“We still do not know why Liyu forces raided the areas on Saturday and Sunday,” he said, referring to the paramilitary soldiers. “But we know that all the victims were ethnic Oromos. At least 40 were killed in the attacks.”
Unrest first broke out along the border of the country’s Somali and Oromia provinces in September, displacing nearly a million people, though the violence had subsided by April.
Earlier this month, mobs looted properties owned by ethnic minorities in the Somali region’s capital Jijiga.
The central government said the unrest had been stoked by regional officials who had fallen out with central authorities trying to address rights abuses in the region.
According to the spokesman, the officials had said the government was illegally forcing them to resign, and that Liyu forces had taken part in the attacks under their orders.
The forces are seen as loyal to the region’s leader Abdi Mohammed Omer, who has since resigned.
Authorities in the Somali region were not immediately available for comment.
Domestic challenge for Abiy
Recent anti-government protests broke out in the Oromia region over land rights in 2015. Hundreds were killed by security forces over a two-year period.
The violence is said to be the biggest domestic challenge facing reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April. Abiy has ushered in a number of reforms, including ending a military statemate with neighbouring Eritrea and extending an olive branch to dissidents overseas.
Separately on Sunday, three people were killed in a stampede among thousands who attended a visit by a prominent political activist in the town of Shashemene, according to officials from the Oromia regional government. The event was held to mark the return to Ethiopia of Jawar Mohammed, an activist who had been in exile in the United States but played a key role in mobilising Oromo young people through social media.
Amid the chaos, another person was beaten to death by a mob after rumours circulated he had carried a bomb, residents said. “Police did not take action while all that took place,” the witness told Reuters news agency. “It is an example of the lawlessness that is taking root in the country.”