By Bileh Jelan @BilehJelan
Addis Abeba, July 27/2021 – Violence once again hit the border area between Afar and Somali regional states. Similar to previous incidents, contradicting narratives about the nature of clashes dominated the conversation over the weekend, with the Somali regional government accusing Afar Special Forces and a group it called ‘Uguguma’ for the violence and members of the Afar community dismissing the news as a propaganda. .
Addis Standard received reports of the violence from sources in the Somali region who detailed incidents of violence on Garba Issa, Undhufto and Aydetu towns. Shortly after Addis Standard received the reports, the Freedom and Equality Party chapter of the Somali region issued a statement condemning the violence and asking for swift actions to protect civilians.
Yesterday, Somali regional government issued a statement where it accused Afar Special Forces of collaborating with ‘Uguguma’ (a name usually used to refer to Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front) to inflict harm on the Somali people and implement TPLF’s agenda. The statement also laid the blame at the feet of the federal security forces and accused it of failing to protect Somali civilians, the statement read, “Following a similar attack a few months ago, federal security forces took responsibility for maintaining peace and order in the area. But sadly the current horrific attack can only be the result of federal security forces failing to fulfill their responsibilities.”
The statement urged both the Afar regional government and the federal government to take necessary actions to put a stop to attacks by Afar Special Forces and Uguguma. It read, “We know that Uguguma and Afar Regional Special Forces are committing atrocities to the detriment of the TPLF, therefore, we ask the Afar Regional State and Federal Government security forces to take necessary action against the perpetrators and stop further harm to innocent Somali civilians.”
The number of casualties remains unknown as official figures are yet to be released. However, angry Somali residents took to the streets and blocked the regional part of the Djibouti-Addis Abeba corridor, demanding a stop to attacks by Afar special Forces. Addis Standard contacted the head of the Somali region communication bureau who declined to provide comments on the matter but stated that, “Although the incident is under investigation and official figures are yet to be released, we believe that Somali casualties are in the hundreds.” The bureau head said official figures are going to be released soon.
However, his counterpart in the Afar regional government Ahmed Koloyta, refused to comment on the border clashes and instead accused the Somali regional government of advancing a divisive agenda. The communication bureau, while dismissing the questions raised by Addis Standard, opted to discuss the ongoing fighting between Afar Special Forces and Tigrayan Forces and said, “’We are at war with the TPLF and we are at battle for sovereignty. We have more than 75,000 displaced people. We are losing our elders, mothers and children in the war,” he explained his dismissal of the issue by only adding, “Our focus will be the ongoing war only.” AS