Jan 18, 2013

Oromo: Militia Attacks Villages In Eastern Oromia

The Somali ‘Liyu Police’ militia carries out cross-borders raids into the Oromia region, claiming territories lost to Oromia during the 2004 border referendum.

 Below is an article published by The Gulele Post:

It has been reported that the Ethiopian-Somali regional state militia known as ‘Liyu Police’ has attacked the town of Qumbi in Eastern Oromia killing many and displacing the population. For the past month the Liyu Police have been attacking, harassing and displacing civilians in the lowland region of Mayu Mulluqe county (woreda) in East Hararge zone. Attacks have taken place in and around the municipalities of Qumbi Goohaa, Seelaa Jaajoo and Aanaa Miinoo according to locals. Many have fled these areas to neighbouring places such as Burqa Tirtira and the vacated areas remain under the Liyu police occupation.

Since its creation in 2007, the Liyu Police militia has been known to commit atrocities against civilians in the Ogaden region and has launched attacks on neighbouring Somali tribes on numerous occasions. However in the last few months, the militia has begun carrying out cross-border raids into the Oromia region. It should be remembered that this heavily armed militia overrun the town of Moyale in Southern Oromia resulting in the death of dozens of people and forcing tens of thousands to flee to Kenya, as reported by Al Jazeera.  All indications are that the attacks have been carried out on the orders of the Federal government in Addis Ababa.  As reported at the time, during the attack on Moyale, the 4th army division stationed just two miles outside the town center watched silently as the militia overrun the police station and ransacked the town.  Then the militia was allowed safe passage to retreat after looting and burning the town while administrators of the Borana province who protested against the army complacency were thrown to jail where they still remain.

Similarly, prior to the recent attacks, the local militia in Mayu Mulluqe in charge of security had been disarmed while the Liyu Police have continued to receive supply of arms and food from the federal government, according to officials of the East Hararghe province who do not wish their name to be disclosed.  After the militia’s incursions into Oromia region began last month, trucks transporting weapons to the areas controlled by the militia have been reported by witnesses. Locals in Burqa Tirtira have blocked roads preventing weapons from reaching the militia currently occupying Qumbi. Despite this, weapons have been flown in and the campaign has continued. It is believed that Burqa Tirtira town may be the next target of the onslaught. This militia is so well trained and heavily armed that, they have taken over most of the fight against the Ogaden insurgents enabling the federal government to move most of its contingents to the northern front where confrontation with Eritrea is on the rise. The Guardian recently reported that the British aid money is been used to arm and train the Liyu police.

According to a source in the Somali region, the president of the region and commander of the Liyu police told the Somali elders that the cross-border raids and invasions by the Liyu police are meant to reclaim territories lost to Oromia during the 2004 boarder referendum. It is to be recalled that referendum was organized to settle dispute between the two regions over 420 kebeles in 12 districts. The referendum resulted in residents living in the 80% of the disputed areas voting to join Oromia.  The district of Qumbi was created from some of the villages that voted to join Oromia. However, the demarcation has been postponed for the past nine years. The final phase of the demarcation was supposed to take place his year.

 However, the territorial dispute seems to be more of a cover story than a real motive for both the regional and federal government in catalyzing this conflict. There are two motives at play, tackling the activities of the Ogaden and dispersing the growing resistance of the Muslim population. The government suspects that Oromo communities in the region has been complacent in facilitating for  the Ogaden to pass through and hide within the Oromo territories whenever they are pressured in their home region. The government securities believe that local elders’ close relations with Ogaden rebels might be orchestrated by the Oromo Liberation that historically enjoys strong support in the area. Hence the regime is reviving the territorial dispute to frustrate the operational alliance between the two insurgents.

Moreover, East Hararge zone has been the target of the governments Ahbash indoctrination campaign and was singled out in a leaked government document as a target zone for government “re-education” due to the so called spread of “extremism”. The report complained that administrators in charge of many of the districts in the province have been openly hostile towards and refuse to implement the indoctrination campaigns. Therefore these attacks by the Liyu Police militia can be interpreted as an effort by the Ethiopian government to instill fear in the population and force them into submission in exchange for protection against the cross-border raids. If the government does at some point decide to step in and restrain its attacks, they will likely try to appear as the peacemaker and the populations’ only source of security, while sowing hatred and distrust between Oromos and their neighbours.