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Somali downplays US travel advisory

The Somali Regional State has downplayed the US government’s travel advisory which notified its citizens not to travel to the Eastern tip of Ethiopia-Somali Region, The Reporter has learnt.

The US government, on July 29, 2019, issued a travel advisory, warning its citizen to avoid traveling to the region.

“Do not travel to Somali Regional State due to the potential for civil unrest, terrorism, kidnapping, and landmines,” read the travel advisory.

This statement, particularly with regards to Somali region, comes after the regional government had boasted about having improved the security conditions in the region.

In this regard, the regional governments have disagreed with the facts presented in the travel advisory.  

“The data and the analysis used to issue such a critical advisory seems to be outdated or, even worse, doesn't represent a fair portrayal of the reality on the ground,” Mohamed Olad, communication head of the region said in his Facebook post. “We unequivocally state that there is no reasonable potential for either civil unrest or terrorism in the region as the advisory claims,” he added.

Mohamed Olad said that the Somali regional security forces are the ones securing the long border shared with the three Eastern African countries, and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is fully repatriated and integrated back to the society.

ONLF which was an armed political group considered to be one of the security threats in the area and was labeled a terrorist group by the Ethiopian government. After the wind of change in Ethiopia, the Front has agreed to lay its arm and peacefully operate in the country. In return, Abiy’s administration delisted ONLF from its terrorist group's list. A couple of weeks ago, the ONLF opened its office in Addis Ababa.

The US government in its travel advisory has also warned its citizens to be cautious while traveling to any parts of Ethiopia.

“Exercise increased caution when traveling in Ethiopia due to sporadic civil unrest and communications disruptions,” reads the advisory.

In addition to the total travel ban to the Somali region, the advisory also notifies US nationals to reconsider their travels to South Ethiopia, Guji, Benishangul, and border areas with Sudan, Eritrea, Kenya, and South Sudan basically due to civil unrest, armed conflicts as well as crimes.