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News: Somali region says thousands displaced in clashes bordering Afar state; victims in dire need of aid

By Addis Standard Staff

Addis Abeba – The Somali regional states government said thousands of civilians who are displaced after renewed clashes in areas bordering the Somali and Afar regional states are in need of humanitarian assistance.

This is the first official statement released following days of reports on social media about ongoing militarized clashes. The Somali regional government said the displaced civilians were currently sheltered in Sitti Zone, Erer Woreda (located in Sitti Zone) in Asbuli and Bedwey localities.”due to heavy rains of the summer, roads are cut off and vehicles could not enter the area” preventing the provision of humanitarian assistance on a daily basis, the statement said.

“Currently, the displaced are in dire situation and the regional state government is coordinating with the federal government to provide immediate assistance,” the Somali region government said, adding that regional President Mustafe M. Omer and his deputy Ibrahim Usman were leading a delegation of the region’s top leaders to coordinate efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the Sitti zone where the IDPs are located. The statement did not state anything about reports of multiple civilian casualties circulating on Somali online activists. The Afar regional state has not commented on the matter, yet.

In the same statement, the Somali regional government denied as “false” and “far from the truth” social media reports that “there was an assassination attempt” on the president of the region.

Background

Sitti zone is a flashpoint of repeated clashes between armed groups 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.

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.

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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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