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(Addis Standard) Addis Ababa, March 03/2017 – Despite a six month nationwide state of emergency declared in Oct. 2016 and was hoped to restore a military style law and order throughout the country, weeks-long cross border incursions by armed militiamen into many localities in eastern and southern part of Oromia, (bordering the Ethiopian Somali regional state, in east and south east Ethiopia) have left more than 100 people dead and the destruction of unknown amount of properties, a local resident said in a phone interview with Addis Standard.

Areas affected by recent incursions

According to Abdurrahman Dubaa, a resident of Chinaksan town in east Hararghe, some 630km east of the capital Addis Abeba, many of the militiamen conducting cross border raids in various localities, including Chinaksan, Babile, Gursum and several other villages, are members of the Liyu Police, a special paramilitary force set up by the Somali regional state with the help of the federal government to counter rebel groups operating in the restive Ogaden region in eastern Ethiopia, and are stationed in and around Ethiopia’s Somali regional state.

The border incursions have also affected areas in West Hararghe especially Bordede woreda, “where more than 30 civilians were killed overnight on Wed. Feb 22,” according to Abdurrahman. In south east of Ethiopia, some 450 km off the capital Addis Abeba, similar incidents have occurred in Bale zone in Swena, Meda Wolabu and Dawe Serer woredas, among others; as well as in Liben and Gumii Edelo woredas in Guji Zone of the Oromia regional state in southern Ethiopia. Abdurrahman further said that the number of people killed so far in various places in the last two weeks only was well “over 100.”


Admitting the incursions, Addisu Arega Kitessa, bureau head of the Oromia government communication affairs office, wrote on his Facebook page that armed militiamen “coming from the Somali regional state have engaged in military raids inside these woredas on several occasions.” Addisu further stated that the reason for these incursions by the armed militiamen was twofold. “The first is border expansion,” he wrote, “There are incidents that after crossing over to these areas, the armed militiamen engage in acts of hoisting the Ethiopian Somali regional state flag claiming the areas to be part of the Somali regional state,” he said.

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The second reason is economic, according to Addisu. “After attacking the areas, these armed militiamen engage in looting of properties.” He further admitted that “lives were lost” in the last two months, but fail short of mentioning the exact number. He also fail short of identifying who exactly these armed militiaman were. However, he cautioned that the incidents have nothing to do with the people of both regions and the regional governments, adding, both the Oromia and the Ethiopian Somali regional governments were trying to “solve the matter peacefully”. Members of the command post tasked to implement the state of emergency were called to intervene in some areas, according to Addisu.

When asked by Addis Standard if the presence of members of the command post was helping to contain these deadly border incursions, Abdurrahman simply said, “[they are] becoming part of the problem than the solution.” Abdurrahman claimed there were several incidents where members of the command post have fired at civilians, a claim Addis Standard could not corroborate due to lack of sources willing to come forth.

In a statement sent to Addis Standard, an organization called Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa, said, in the past six months “hundreds of Ethiopian Somali Liyu Police…have entered into Oromia villages, attacked and killed and abducted hundreds of Oromos and looted properties; over 750 goats, sheep, and camels were taken.” The organization claims the number of people killed in recent skirmishes is more than 200.

On Thursday March 02, during a televised meeting of Caffee Oromia, the region’s parliament, which was chaired by Lemma Megerssa, president of the region, several members of the parliament were seen voicing their frustrations in what they indisputably asserted were the “violence and killings perpetrated” by the Liyu Police, but also by members of the federal police force, on several villages bordering the two regions. “

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In addition to being one of food insecurity prone areas, the boundary between the two neighboring regional states has been a hotly contested affair both before and after the Oct. 2004 border referendum, which was held to determine the residents’ choice for administrative status of border kebeles.

The referendum was conducted in 420 Kebeles located in 12 different Woredas across five zones of the Somali Regional state. Official results of the referendum say residents in close to 80% of the disputed areas have voted to be under the administration of the Oromia regional state. Addisu Arega Kitessa asserts the result of the referendum are “final” and will not be altered. But claims alleging voting irregularities persist. And subsequent ethnic conflicts have led to the displacement in late 2004 and early 2005 of more than 80,000 people on both sides.

Although to a lesser extent, clashes between the two communities triggered by meager resources have remained the hallmark in many Kebeles located in border areas between the two regions.

It is in the backdrop of this that the Somali regional state special force, known in Amharic as Liyu Police, was formed in 2007. The presence of this special force, established to counter threats from the secessionist Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) is often associated with several accounts of abuse against both ethnic Somalis thought to support ONLF and the Oromos by holding cross border raids for the purpose of territorial expansion and resource looting.

A report in May 2012 by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the special force of “summarily” executing 10 men “during a March 2012 operation in Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region.” “The Liyu police have been implicated in numerous serious abuses against civilians throughout the Somali region in the context of counterinsurgency operations,” it says.

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“The purpose of Liyu Police is double edged,” says a professor of political science at the Addis Abeba University (AAU) who wants to remain anonymous. “It serves both as the savior of the regional state from ONLF’s encroachment and the safeguard of territorial expansion of the Somali regional state into the Oromia regional state across the border between the two regions. The Liyu police serves both these purposes with an extreme sense of impunity,” the professor said.

Although officials of the Somali regional state claim that the Liyu Police was established in “accordance [with] police proclamation that emanate from the national constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE),” the exact legal and constitutional status of the force remains a perplexing enigma.

Commenting on his Facebook page on Sunday Feb 26, a pro-government blogger and editor at Horn Affairs, Daniel Berhane, said, “The Somali regional state should be told in clear language that it should refrain from its irresponsible acts. To this end, the federal government should discharge its responsibilities.” According to Daniel, although several factors determine the recent clashes, “it is clear that there were disproportional use of force by the Liyu Police in several areas.”

Shedding light on the highly contested status of the Liyu Police, Daniel said, “There should be a check on the discipline, organizational structure and political imperative of the Liyu Police.”

Back in Chinaksan, residents have once again took to the streets last week and have blocked roads “to prevent the Liyu police from coming in,” Abdurrahman Dubaa said. As of Monday this week, federal forces enforcing the current state of emergency have taken control of the city’s security and are “searching homes of residents, detaining young people and taking them to unknown locations,” he said.

What triggered the latest incursions is not clear, and so far, there has been no statement both from the federal government and the Somali regional state.


Source: Addis Standard 


  1. The horrifying truth is no one is in charge in Ethiopia. There is a single truth in Ethiopia since TPLF came to power. No prime minster worries about a coup. The reason is simple. And it is found in the wild. When they hyenas hunt they put up a united effort. Once the meal is at hand there is the rank and file that must eat first and last. The same is true of TPLF juntas and cadres.
    The sense of country is dead. Everyone is stationed in their own kilil (apartheid) system. There is no common language to be able to communicate and resolve any of our differences. That is knowingly comingled and confused. If part of the TPLF circle you are given everything under the Sun to loot and kill and be whom ever you want to be. The left over is given to those groups that work on the side of TPLF along their ethnic lines. No matter what, you are a second class citizen. You are not from Tigray.
    What is happening in Somalia and Oromia region is no different than what is going on in the Amhara region, looting, killing and disappearances of people and their resources. In the last six months, representatives of the Ethiopian Somalia region were in Mekelle getting directives from their master the TPLF. I am pretty sure they were told to do what is going on in that region at this very moment. Divide and rule. The colonialist tactic. As the regional administrator said forces from the federal government are no different than bandits. To get their share, they will shoot their way in and out in the name of peace. Our country is tinderbox. Very few seem to notice. We may reach a point of no return.

  2. The genie is out of the bottle and this is going to be the beginning of the long running smaller raids getting bigger and bigger. As I have said so many times before usable land over there is getting smaller and smaller and the population on the other hand is ballooning by the day. Raids into villages of settled pastoralists and farming tribes were not uncommon even when I was a kid in the 1940’s and 1950’s. I remember when local policemen getting killed when trying to separate warring tribes of the Afars and Issas both being the aggressors but mostly elements from the Issas (Please note I said ‘elements’ and did not accuse my brothers and sisters of the entire Issa tribe). The number of such raids goes up and then there would be an extended lull. Then it goes again so the cycle continues. But the most common weapon that was used by the raiding parties was not more that bolt action rifles. But after the independence of Somalia and the change in the autonomy of Djibouti, the rule of the game had changed. In the late 1960’s semi and fully automatic rifles began showing up in the hands of the raiders even outgunning the policemen. Now it might have escalated into RPG’s and heavy machine guns. Bordode being raided? That was unthinkable and faraway to become susceptible to such destructive and deadly raids when I was a young boy. I think level headed individuals and groups from all three ethnic groups(Afars, Issas and my own Oromos) should come together and resolve this on-going and chronic problem once and for all. The Ugaas of the Issas, The Sultan of the Afars and community leaders of my own Oromos should start to rein in rogue elements (I remember the Ugaas of the Issas of the 1950;s and 60’s used to do just that even by forcing the raiders to return the cattle they just rustled) in their midst and hold peace conventions. It must be on give and take dealings otherwise warmongers will take over and the result will be a no-winner mayhem. We are talking about the age of RPG’s and AK-47’s not gangs with fusil gras in their hands. Some may think that a sitting regime provokes such raids. To be fair even the late Emperor seemed to have no hands in such destructive behavior but I remember he used to be blamed as an instigator by those who never lived through it all. I knew it and the Itu clan on my mother’s side was victimized on several occasions. Some of its members were forced to leave their ancestral homeland and settle in the Ghinir districts after crossing the Boke area. In the past they used to migrate there with their cattle when there was serious drought around Bordode, Kora, Asabot and the vicinity. Then they return when the drought was over. Now the drought seems to be permanent thanks to the climate change weather phenomenon and as an insult to injury, the population is ballooning beyond control. You see, Bordode is not faraway from major metropolitan areas of Awash, Adama and even Addis(Finfine). The solution for this chronic problem is in the hands of the tribal and community leaders I mentioned above along with leaders of the two major religions. The role of the leaders of the two major religions is immense when it comes to the issue of stemming the population explosion and it would be impossible without their full support and participation.

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