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News: More than a dozen civilians killed following latest clashes between Afar, Somali regions militias near border areas

By Addis Standard Staff

Addis Ababa – At least 18 civilians were killed, several others were injured in fresh clashes in areas bordering the Somali and Afar regional states on 09 November, according to a source from the Somali region who spoke with Addis Standard.

Some 28 civilians who were injured in the clashes were taken to a nearby Biki hospital in the Somali region. A medical staff at the hospital who wanted to remain anonymous confirmed to Addis Standard that the injured were admitted to the hospital.

The latest clashes took place in Dheymeed woreda, one of the two new woredas setup by the Somali regional state government to host people displaced during previous clashes. Dhuunar is the other new woreda. Found in western Sitti zone, in the border with Afar regional state, both were previously Kebeles but were promoted to Woreda levels by the Somali regional state government in August this year.

Thousands of IDPs previously displaced from three disputed woredas were made to settle in the two new woredas “as a compensation after the government failed to keep its promise to return them to the three woredas” they were displaced from, according to our source.

Sporadic clashes frequently occur especially over the past years between militias from the two regional states on disputed land. In August the Somali regional state government said thousands of civilians were displaced following renewed clashes in areas bordering the Afar region.

What triggered the latest clash is not clear and Addis Standard’s efforts to get comments from both Afar and Somali region officials on the latest clashes were unsuccessful. Both regions have also not issued official statements as of the publishing of this news.

Background

Sitti zone is a flashpoint of repeated clashes between armed groups and militias from both regional states. In 2014 a political agreement was struck during the presidency of then Somali regional state, Abdi Muhamud Omer, a.k.a, Abdi Iley, (currently on trial at a federal court) to hand over three Kebelles that previously were under the Somali region administration to the Afar regional state.

On May 03/2019, at an extraordinary meeting held in Jigjiga city, the cabinet of Somali Regional State under the newly installed President Mustafe M. Omer had unilaterally withdrew from the agreement. The cabinet issued a statement that “the regional cabinet has unanimously agreed that the illegal agreement that has transferred the three towns of Garba-Issa, Undufo and Adaytu to the Afar Regional State is an agreement that has no base under the federal constitution while at the same time lacking the will of the same people impacted by the decisions under consideration coupled with a dangerous set of coercion tactics and bad faith as engineered by contrabandists under the cover of Afar Regional state.”

The contested areas are referred as Gadamaytu, Undafo and Adayti in Afar regional state.

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The areas saw multiple Incidents of violence after the decision by the Somali regional state cabinet. In December, 2020, the Afar and Somali regional states engaged in a serious war of words in which they accuse each other’s regional forces of targeting civilians for killings. The accusations came after reports of the killing of at least 39 members of the Somali Regional State Special Forces by the Afar Special Forces. Although the Somali region dismissed reports of the killing of its special forces, it warned that “any physical or psychological harm, including discrimination and killing based on language, race, or similar factors, is a major manifestation of genocide.”

The Afar region in its part called the killings “a familiar terrorist attack”, which it blamed on “organized Issa group,” and said it was tantamount to “declaring an open war” on the region.

After repeated clashes since then, in April 2021, high-level delegation led by the Presidents of the Afar and Somali Regional States, Awol Arba and Mustafe M. Omer, respectively, convened a consultative meeting chaired by the then Minister of Peace, Muferihat Kamil.

Following the meeting, the Ministry announced that the two leaders have reached “an amicable agreement to immediately resolve issues that arose.” The meeting was also attended by higher officials from the two regions and the peace and security leadership of the Federal Government. AS

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