Somali-Oromia conflict persists despite federal intervention
PM disappointed by Somali Region’s statement
As Prime Minister Hailemaraim Dessalegn is trying to sort out the confrontation between the Somali and Oromia Regional States, the Somali Region Communications Bureau over the week issued a statement accusing the Oromia Regional State of proceeding forcibly with land expansion in view of finding access to neighboring sea ports such as those in Somaliland and Somalia for alleged subversive reason against the federation.
The statement was made the same week high-level officials of the two regions were said to be holding discussions under the auspices of the federal government headed by the Prime Minister.
According to an October 4, 2017 (Wednesday) posting on the official Facebook account of the Office of the Prime Minister, the PM pressed the two regional administrations to work towards stabilizing the situation. This was made during a meeting between officials of the two regions along with high-level federal officials, including the premier and his deputy, Demeke Mekonnen.
During the meeting, the PM also gave directions on the rehabilitation of those displaced.
On Tuesday, the Somali Regional State issued a statement following a consultation meeting held between local officials and traditional leaders.
“Even though the people of Somali paid in blood and treasure during the struggle that ultimately ousted the Derg regime while not changing their name, language, religion and their culture now a new version of Derg has emerged,” the statement said.
The statement also pointed out alleged reasons behind the confrontation between the two regional states accusing Oromia of serious crimes.
“The first reason behind this conflict is that the Oromia Region is proceeding forcibly with land expansion and finding access to neighboring sea ports such as those in Somaliland and Somalia for allegedly importing heavy weapons for the purpose of attacking federal government forces, and in that effort of theirs, the Somali region has become the only existing barrier they have faced,” reads the statement.
Moreover, the region has also alleged that because the Somali region had managed to fight and win terrorist groups like Al-Etihad, OLF has led the attack against the Somali Region.
In the same statement issued in three languages—Somali, Amharic and English—the region demanded that the federal government intervene and take appropriate action.
As far as this controversial statement is concerned, Negeri Lencho (PhD), head of government communication affairs office, told The Reporter that the statement was condemned by Prime Minister Hailemariam after the meeting that was held this week.
According to Negeri, the meeting also heard reports from the two regions as well as the Federal Police regarding the conflict and the causalities suffered by the two sides. Negeri, also confirmed that 75,000 Oromos and around 392 Somalis were displaced due to the bloody conflict.
Negeri also explained that those who are displaced from the Ethiopian Somali region were not displaced by the Somali people but by “some organized groups” in the region. Meanwhile, many Oromos also reported that they decided to leave the region simply because they could not be assured by the regional administration officials and security apparatus as to their safety and security.
As far as the loss of lives is concerned, Negeri said that the actual number of people who were killed during the conflict was also part of report; he, however, refrained from disclosing the figures.
The Human Right Commission, which has the mandate to investigate the conflict, has already started its work and it is expected to present its findings to the parliament in the near future, Negeri told The Reporter.
On the other hand, the report presented in the meeting by the Federal Police reveals that still the conflict is raging in certain areas along the disputed Oromia-Somali Border. Although the federal security force trying to control the situation, the report noted that it has not been fully successful in stopping the clashes altogether, Negeri said.
Negeri also noted, following the mediation, the Somali region was instructed to stop obstructing the country’s foreign trade sector and to stop tampering with export products at the various checkpoints set by the regions.
This is purely within the federal mandate, Negeri said, warning that no regional authority has such powers.
He also cited attempts by Somali Region security forces, where they established a checkpoint around Babille, to stop products destined for the export market.
With regard to the displaced people, a direction was given to let the displaced people return back to their homes and a compensation to be offered for those who lost their properties, he added.
In addition to the effort to find a longstanding solution to the conflict, Negeri also stated that there will be peace conferences ahead that would bring together the two regions, once again.