The world seems unaware of the travesty of death and dislocation that has erupted, during the last few weeks in the border areas between Oromia, the Somali and the SNNP regions of Ethiopia. It is an orchestrated attack on the people of those regions. Exactly a year from the 2016 Irreecha massacre, the Oromo people have not had relief from the suffering imposed on them by various sectors of the Ethiopian government. The latest is an example of the escalation of government-induced border violence.
The current situation in Oromia, particularly in the Eastern and some parts of Southern Oromia, is alarming in that a special government-armed group known as the “Liyu Police” has inflicted death and injury upon hundreds of civilians and displaced more than half a million people from the surrounding areas. They do this under the guise that they are part of the Somali State Administration. They are not. They are directly equipped by generals in the Ethiopian power structure with orders to provoke unrest. The humanitarian crisis in the region is quickly escalating into a chaotic situation impacting millions of people. Although the spread of the current atrocities are unprecedented, it has to be noted that the attacks are not new occurrences. Ogaden Somalis living in Eastern Ethiopia have had to contend with this force for several years. Then the Oromo became targets; for example, Oromo villages in Eastern Hararghe such as Mayu Mulluqe saw their men killed, women raped and entire villages uprooted due to attacks by the Liyu Police, long before the #OromoProtests began.
These unprovoked attacks should be worrying to the international community because they represent an example of direct civil agitation by a mercenary force sponsored by the Ethiopian government. There are reports that these Liyu Police arm neighboring communities for the purpose of carrying out attacks against Oromo villages in the border regions of Eastern and Southern Oromia. Locals also report that the Liyu Police dress up in civilian clothes in order to instigate ethnic clashes between the Oromo and their neighbors. In a few cases where the Oromo retaliated, in order to protect their children and property, government forces immediately came to the defense of the non-Oromo parties without investigating the origin of the disputes. However, Oromos living in the impacted areas receive very little support from the authorities. The survivors of clashes with the Liyu Police and those armed by them are left with no alternative but to flee from their homes. Had it not been for the relentless efforts of elders from both Oromia and the border regions of the Somali and the SNNP regions, there would have been even more clashes and bloodshed. It is quite clear that these tactics are designed by the Ethiopian government as its latest attempt to quell the popular Oromo protests.
Rumors from within the ruling TPLF/Tigray-led governing party of Ethiopia suggest that similar programs of sowing seeds of ethnic conflict between Oromos and bordering communities are being planned for other areas also, such as the Northeast border with Afar as well as in the West and Northwest borders with Benishangul and Gambella regions. Unless reasonable voices from inside of Ethiopia and concerned members of the international community unite to put pressure on Ethiopia’s government to put a stop to these brutal and deadly maneuvers, this could lead to avoidable bloodshed and regrettable lasting disruption within the country.
OAA thanks various international institutions that have voiced their concerns during the Oromo protests, such as Human Rights Watch, which recently released the most definitive report on the Irrechaa massacre to date (while at the same time calling for further international investigation). Also, we acknowledge the United States Congress, where key Committees have unanimously approved strong resolutions on Ethiopia to be placed before the full House and Senate for acceptance. The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed House Resolution 128 on Ethiopia July 27, 2017 and Senate Resolution 168 on “Supporting Respect for Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia” passed the Foreign Relations Committee this week, September 19, 2017. The progress of these resolutions is a triumph of grassroots advocacy.
At the same time OAA would urge the US Congress and other institutions to be alert to the dangers unfolding in this region and attentively follow the current situation in Oromia’s border villages as well as in Ethiopia as a whole, in order to put even more pressure on the Ethiopian government to halt immediately its increasing violence against civilians across the country.