Fresh clashes between communities residing along the border areas of the Oromia and Somali regions of eastern Ethiopia have led to several deaths and injuries. According to a resident who spoke to Addis Standard on condition of anonymity, seven people have been killed and 14 others seriously injured since last Tuesday following clashes between communities living in adjacent districts of Tulu Guled in Somali region and Chinaksan in Oromia region. The clashes have been ongoing since 14 March in Makanis, Uswayne, and Sandacare villages, leaving seven dead and 14 injured. The injured are currently undergoing treatment at Jijiga hospital.
The clashes erupted after Makanis village, which was located in the Tulu Guled district of Fafan zone of the Somali region, was incorporated into the Makanis Oromo district. The district was established after the Chinaksan district was split into two under the recent restructuring of cities, districts, and zones by the Oromia regional government. The resident accused the Oromia region special forces and local militias of having been involved in the clashes in support of communities from the Oromia region, while complaining of the failure of the Somali region security forces to take action.
Hailu Adugna, head of the Oromia Communication Bureau, dismissed both allegations of the incorporation of a Somali village into Oromia region and the involvement of the regional government’s security forces in the clashes. He said that “no area was taken from the Somali region and incorporated into Oromia under the new restructuring” and added that “no armed attack was launched on the Somali communities by the Oromia regional government security forces”. Hailu said splitting the vast Chinaksan district into two was necessitated to improve service provision and development needs of the local communities and it is within the mandate of the regional government to do so.
Following the announcement of the restructuring by the Oromia regional government little over two weeks ago, opposition party Congress for Somali Cause (CSC) released a statement on 10 March condemning the Oromia region of converting a “small kebele called Makanisa inside the Somali Regional State into a district with the intent of illegally expanding the scope of this kebele by swallowing Somali villages around it and to have a direct corridor to the border of Somalia”. It also accused the Oromia region of illegally constructing a 400 million-birr dam on Somali territory without any consultation with the elected officials from the region.
The long-standing conflict between the two neighboring communities has persisted despite efforts by the government to resolve the disputes. It has led to numerous casualties and displacement of people. It is hoped that the Ethiopian government will take decisive action to resolve the dispute and prevent further loss of lives and property.