Tuesday, August 20, 2019 | ePaper

BREAKING NEWS:

Rising misery as Ethiopia struggles to stem ethnic tensions

  • Print


More than a million people have been displaced due to ethnic conflict in Southern region of Gedeo state and West region of Oromia state.

AFP, Cherqo :
More than a year after his house in southern Ethiopia was razed to the ground, his coffee plantation destroyed and cattle stolen, Teketel Memheru is still too terrified to return home.
The 22-year-old is one of hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes by ethnic clashes in a burgeoning domestic crisis the Ethiopian government is battling to contain.
"I witnessed a neighbour of mine hacked to death and another neighbour was burnt alive in his house. I'm scared to go to farm my agricultural plot for fear of attacks," said Teketel, an ethnic Gedeo who says he came under attack by Oromos - the country's largest ethnic group. Officials insist that what became the world's biggest internal displacement crisis in 2018 is under control, and that more than a million people have returned to their homes.
However those working on the ground - speaking anonymously to avoid a government backlash - say the displaced are being forcibly returned. They warn that the dire humanitarian conditions are only set to get worse. "Peace is not restored, I didn't meet a single person who wants to return under these conditions. People are really scared. It will get more difficult," an aid worker told AFP.
The worker said that in May local officials and soldiers had entered the camps and ordered people to leave. Most people however had just disappeared once again into a fatigued host community and were living in utter "misery". In addition, hunger levels had become a "catastrophe".
"We believe levels of violence and displacement will continue," said the worker.
Since coming to power in April 2018 after two years of anti-government unrest, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed - himself an Oromo - has been hailed for his efforts to end the iron-fisted rule of his predecessors.
He has embarked on economic reforms, allowed dissident groups back into the country, and an easing of control has seen Ethiopia jump 40 points in the 2019 press freedom index.
But the loosening of the reins has had a far darker side, as years of tensions between ethnic groups who are divided into nine autonomous regions, have boiled over - usually over land and resources - leading to deadly violence in the country of over 100 million people.
One of the hotspots is along the borders of the Gedeo district - which is part of the vast Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region - and West Guji in Oromia.
The verdant, rolling hills of this southern region, are where some of the world's best coffee is grown. It is also the most densely populated part of the country, with residents facing a critical shortage of farmland.
Tensions have long existed between the groups, but last year the Oromo of West Guji attacked the Gedeo living on their side. The clashes led to the world's largest displacement crisis, with over a million mostly ethnic Gedeos displaced, according to government figures.
Similar violence erupted in 2017 between Somalis and Oromos in the southeast Somali region, also displacing around one million people and leaving hundreds dead.
And last month dozens of people were killed in clashes between residents of northern Benishangul Gumuz and Amhara states.
"None of these conflicts are entirely new, but several of them have flared at a larger scale than we've seen in the past," said William Davison, the International Crisis Group's senior Ethiopia analyst.
He said there were multiple factors at play stoking tensions.
These include the weakening of the once all-powerful ruling EPRDF as a result of years of protests and infighting, an economic slowdown that has hit the poor hard, and a shake-up of the security apparatus under Abiy.
"There has been a loosening of control which has led existing disputes to take on a new dimension," said Davison.
Add to this a poorly functioning ethnic federal system, opportunities presented by the political transition, and competition for resources in an impoverished nation.
Abiy's opening has led to ethno-nationalists staking different claims, but at the same time he is loath to lean back on the repressive tactics once used to deter and crack down on intercommunal violence.
"Abiy has been clear his government is disinclined to use past methods and send in police or soldiers to apply lethal force and conduct mass arrests on the spot."

More News For this Category

Iran warns US against oil tanker seizure as ship leaves Gibraltar

Iran warns US against oil tanker seizure as ship leaves Gibraltar

AP, Tehran :Tehran said Monday it has warned its arch-foe Washington against attempting to seize an Iranian tanker that has set sail from waters off Gibraltar after being impounded for

Chinese firm suspends Venezuelan oil loading over US sanction fears

Chinese firm suspends Venezuelan oil loading over US sanction fears

Reuters, Washington :China National Petroleum Corp, a leading buyer of Venezuelan oil, has halted August loadings following the latest set of U.S. sanctions on the South American exporter, two Beijing-based

Trump hails progress in talks with Taliban

Trump hails progress in talks with Taliban

US President Donald Trump on Sunday hailed progress in negotiations on an Afghanistan peace deal, saying that talks with both the Taliban and the Afghan government are going well.But while

Scientists find Arctic Ocean sea ice loaded with microplastics

Scientists find Arctic Ocean sea ice loaded with microplastics

AFP, Paris :At first glance, it looks like hard candy laced with flecks of fake fruit, or a third grader's art project confected from recycled debris.In reality, it's a sliver

Sudanese army and civilians seal interim power-sharing deal

Sudanese army and civilians seal interim power-sharing deal

Reuters, Khartoum :Sudan's main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on Saturday signed a final power-sharing deal that paves the way for a transitional government, and eventually elections, following

News In Brief

Trump confirms interest in buying GreenlandAFP, WashingtonUS President Donald Trump on Sunday confirmed his interest in buying Greenland, but said it was not a priority for his administration."It's something we

British MPs press Johnson to recall parliament over Brexit

British MPs press Johnson to recall parliament over Brexit

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under pressure Sunday to immediately recall lawmakers from their summer holiday so parliament can debate Brexit.More than 100 MPs have written to Johnson to

Iranian tanker to leave Gibraltar soon despite US pressure

Iranian tanker to leave Gibraltar soon despite US pressure

AP, Gibraltar :The shipping agent for an Iranian supertanker caught in a diplomatic standoff says the vessel is ready to depart Gibraltar on Sunday or Monday, as the U.S. made

Ukraine peace the prize as Macron hosts Putin

Ukraine peace the prize as Macron hosts Putin

AFP, Paris :French President Emmanuel Macron will attempt to convince Russia to accept Ukraine's overtures of dialogue when he meets Vladimir Putin for talks on Monday ahead of a G7

Man charged after New York scare over rice cookers

Man charged after New York scare over rice cookers

AFP, New York :A young homeless man has been charged with placing false bombs, police said Saturday, after three empty rice cookers caused major commuter disruption in New York.Larry K.