Fifty thousand displaced, evicted in Oromia-Somali crisis

About fifty thousands people fled Ethiopian-Somali regional state, following a clash with the neighboring state Oromia that left dozens dead and pressure from local officials. 

Caravans of trucks continued to evacuate citizens out of Ethiopian-Somali region for a fourth day on Friday. The displaced people are being sheltered at Chinaksen, Harar and Dire Dawa.

The mass displacement was preceeded by a series of clashes along the borders of Oromia and Somali regions since the beginning of the month. The clashes mostly took place in remote parts of the southern most common boundaries of the two regions and reportedly left dozens of security officers and civillians dead.

The situation escallated last weekend when local officials of both regions were killed.

An official of Hudet woreda, Liben zone, Somali region, was killed along with some militia men last Saturday.  The man, identified as Ibrahim, was a head of Water and Rural Infrastrucure of the woreda, according to a HornAffairs source related to the deceased.

Two days later, on Monday, the officials of Gursum woreda, eastern Harareghe, Oromia region, were killed by gunmen. Oromia region claims the gunmen were Somali region officers.

It is not clear whether the two incidents are related. However, the desceased Somali official belongs to a clan dominant in the areas adjacent to the area of where the deceased Oromia officials.

On Tuesday, residents of eastern Hararghe towns staged protest demonstrations in Dedere, Qobo, Awoday and Chelenko. In Dedere, two protesters were injured by police, while the house of the woreda administrator was ransacked.

In Awoday, however, a mob attacked Somali traders and killed between 28 and 37 people. “The mob came out of nowhere as local security officers stood by”, a humanitarian worker in the area told HornAffairs.

Same day, hundreds of people from the Oromo ethno-linguistic group were displaced from several areas of Ethiopian-Somali region, including Kebri Beyah, about 50 km away from the regional capital Jigjiga. On the other hand, about 300 Somalis fled to Harar city from the surrounding Oromia parts.

On Wednesday, protests were also held in Boreda and Karamille towns of Western Haraghe zone and one person was killed by security officers.

While protests subsided, a war of words began between the spokespersons of the regions.  Oromia put the blame on the Special police of Somali region, while the later accused senior officials of the former.

Somali region started seven days of morning on Friday calling the Awoday massacre and conducting the funeral people killed in Awoday.

Map - Camps of displaced Oromo citizens in Chinaksen, Harar, Dire Dawa
Map – Camps of displaced Oromo citizens in Chinaksen, Harar, Dire Dawa

Displacement unabated

The security problem appears under control since the deployment of federal police and military officers. 

However, tens of thousands of people of Oromo ethno-linguistic group continue to evacuate until Friday. The number of displaced people which stood at about 1200 on Wednesday was reached about 50 thousand on Friday. Additional people are expected to arrive on Saturday. 

The displaced people were living and working in various parts of the northern and central parts of Somali region. An unknown number of people came from Somaliland, where two Ethiopian citizens of Oromo ethno-linguistic group were killed on Friday by a police officer whose brother was killed in Awoday. 

HornAffairs confirmed from multiple sources that most of the displaced people are not leaving on their own volition or merely out of fear of retaliations.

Local officials of Afdem and Erar woredas of Ethiopian-Somali region ordered Oromo residents To evacuate, according to HornAffairs source with close ties to the local officials.

Similar orders of eviction were given by local officials and special police officers in Jigjiga area and the border town of Togo Wuchale area, according to a humanitarian worker in the area. Both sources insisted on anonymity for fear of retaliations.

It was not clear whether those who fled Somaliland were similarly of evicted.

Jarso clan is among the evicted people,  a source belonging to the clan told HornAffairs. Jarso clan exhibits a mix of Oromo And Somali identities. In the 2004 referendum to determine the boundaries of the two regions, some sub-clans and vicinities of the Jarso voted in favor Of Oromia, while others chose to be part of Somali region. Residents whose lineage belong to the former are among those currently forced to leave.

The source said, “this is is nothing is nothing but retaliation for the referendum result, result it result it is result it is to humiliate humiliate us because we are blamed for the assignment of Chinaksen and Jaarso woredas to Oromia, our case our case should not be overlooked”.

The displaced and evicted people reached more than 48 thousand people on Friday and sheleted in three locations.

About 25,000 people displaced from Jigjiga, Togo Wuchale, Kebri Beyah of Somali region and from Somaliland are camped in eastern Oromia, in Chinaksen town.

About 22,000 people displaced from the abovementioned places and other areas of Somali region travelling through the road to Babile town are camped in Harar city.

About 1,200 people displaced from Afdem, Siti (Shinele), Aysha and Hurso areas of Somali region are camped in Dire Dawa city.

Local officials and humanitarian workers say the local community have been generous in providing support. However, the available coordination capacity is hardly a match for the overwhelming task and they pleaded for the provision of additional humanitarian assistance. 

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Daniel Berhane

Daniel Berhane

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