Renewed violent clashes stemming from a decades-old territorial dispute between Meskan and Mareko in Central Ethiopia have left multiple casualties, led to widespread displacement, and ignited a larger conflict involving local and federal security forces. As tensions continue to rise, understanding the root of this conflict is critical for both regional stability and the well-being of the countless individuals affected.
Background and Recent Events
In a recent bout of violence in Central Ethiopia’s East Meskan Woreda, an armed group’s attack resulted in the death of eight individuals and left several others injured. The regions of Beche Bulchano and East Dida Kebeles, both adjacent to East Meskan Woreda and Mareko Special Woreda, became the epicenters of this assault.
Sources from Jayro town in Beche Bulchano Kebele reported an attack during a coffee ceremony in midday. A mother and her child were tragically killed, with a pregnant woman, her child, and an elderly man among the injured. Those injured are currently under medical care at Adama Referral Hospital. In a subsequent event in Saya town, an attack was said to have occurred in the late afternoon during a torrential rainstorm, with assailants using the cover of rain to launch their assault from a nearby farming area.
A Land Dispute Decades in the Making
The ongoing conflict is rooted in a territorial disagreement over nine kebeles (local administrative units) between the neighboring districts of Meskan and Mareko. Historically unified as the “Mesqan and Mareqo woreda,” this entity was home to two primary tribes, the Gurage and Mareqo. A division approximately twenty years ago resulted in the establishment of separate Mesqan and Mareqo districts. This split sparked contention over the nine kebeles, leading to intermittent confrontations and conflicts.
As reported, a recent altercation initiated in the Bati-Leja kebele over land rights, escalating rapidly and spreading to neighboring kebeles. The confrontations resulted in a reported loss of at least ten lives. Additionally, several houses, possibly numbering between 40 to 50, were destroyed, and significant property damage ensued.
Displacement and Response
Following these events, many individuals reportedly sought safety in Qoshe, the capital of Mareqo woreda, and Butajira, the zone’s main city. Federal police, regional special police force, and military units have been deployed, which has led to a reduction in the scale of conflicts. Still, isolated incidents continue to be a concern. Mr. Feleke Abate from the communication bureau of the Gurage zone mentioned awareness of six deaths. However, the extent of displacement, as relayed by locals, remains a topic of discussion among officials and the affected community.
As the situation unfolds, the hope is for a peaceful resolution to this longstanding territorial disagreement and the prevention of further harm to the inhabitants of the region.