Ethiopia accused neighboring Somaliland of illegally displacing more than 3,000 long-term Oromo residents in the wake of clashes on the boundary between two of Ethiopia’s regional states.
The semi-autonomous northern territory of Somalia displaced the Oromos, who belong to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and are now sheltering in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regional states, Information Minister Negeri Lencho told reporters Monday in the capital, Addis Ababa. He said the eastern part of Oromia experienced “bloody conflict” in the clashes along the more than 1,500-kilometer (932-mile) state border this month and described Oromos as having been targeted there, in Ethiopia’s Somali region and in Somaliland, without elaborating.
He said fighting that occurred in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions this month left “hundreds” of people dead on both sides and resulted in “tens of thousands” fleeing their homes, and the federal government will give exact figures after an investigation. Somaliland Foreign Minister Saad Ali Shire said by email that he has instructed his staff to report to him on the matter and he needed the facts before he could comment.
Under the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, a rebel movement that took power in 1991 after overthrowing a military regime, Africa’s second most populous nation has a federalized system designed to give autonomy to ethnic groups. The International Monetary Fund ranks Ethiopia as the continent’s fastest-growing economy, but unrest has threatened to derail the boom.
Ethiopia is now facing “some challenges” from territorial disputes between its ethnic groups, Negeri said. “We understand that the process of building democracy is in an infant stage,” but the EPRDF is determined to restore peace, he said.
Federal armed forces are taking “appropriate action” against armed groups “trying to destabilize the area,” and are investigating allegations including of extra-judicial killings, Negeri said. During the border clashes, Oromia authorities accused the Somali region’s special police of killing Oromos, while the Somali region accused the Oromo Liberation Front, a rebel group outlawed by the federal government, of involvement, Negeri said.
The U.S. last week urged Ethiopia to conduct a transparent investigation into all allegations of violence and to hold those responsible accountable.