Medical/Health Care

Officials: Clashes in Disputed Zone Kill Dozens of Ethiopian Herders

Dozens of herders have been gunned down along the border of two regions in northeast Ethiopia, officials said Tuesday, a fresh flare-up in a long-running dispute over contested land.

The bloodshed in territory claimed by both the Somali and Afar regions highlights security woes facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed that extend well beyond the ongoing conflict farther north in Tigray.

Spokesmen for the two regions traded accusations Tuesday over who was responsible for the latest violence, which began Friday. None of the details could be independently verified.

Ahmed Kaloyte of the Afar region told AFP that Somali special police and militias raided an area known as Haruka, “indiscriminately firing on locals and killing more than 30 Afar civilian pastoralists” and injuring at least 50 more.

“The local community then beat back the attackers and caught some of them red-handed,” temporarily restoring order, he said.

On Tuesday morning, though, Somali special forces returned with truck-mounted firearms and rocket-propelled grenades to Haruka and two nearby areas, “killing an unknown number of civilians including women and children in their sleep,” he said.

But Abdo Heloe, a spokesman for Somali region, said the unrest was instigated by Afar security forces.

“The latest upsurge in violence started Friday when Afar special police officers attacked civilian Somali pastoralists for unknown reasons,” Abdo told AFP.

“So far more than 25 civilians have been killed and more than 30 injured in the unprovoked attack. The attack is still continuing.”

He said federal officials “haven’t taken any measures” to defuse the situation so far.

Abiy’s government is also under pressure to address reports of violence between the country’s two largest ethnic groups, the Oromos and the Amharas.

Ethiopia is divided into 10 semi-autonomous federal regions, largely carved out along ethnic lines, and land and political disputes between the states often spark violence.

On Tuesday the communications office of the Jile-Temuga area in Amhara region — which is populated by Oromos — said some 68 people perished and 114 were injured in a “recent attack”, though it did not provide details of when the violence occurred.

“In addition, more than 40,000 farmers have been displaced from their homes and properties and are currently living in three temporary shelters,” the office said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.

Federal security officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Abiy, the country’s first Oromo leader, took power in 2018 after several years of anti-government protests.

His tenure has been marred by persistent, grisly violence along ethnic lines.

Source: Voice of America