By Dawit Endeshaw
Almost three weeks after a similar deadly violence, Afar Regional State is yet again hit by a fresh protest which causeda blockage to the Ethio-Djibouti road and railway for almost two days, The Reporterhas learnt.
It is to be recalled that similar protests werewitnessedin Afar back in December 25, 2018, of which four people were said to have lost their lives and 13 severely injured. It was a result of a clash between an armed militia and Special police of the Afar Regional States which first erupted in a place called Endefo–a small Kebele along the border of Afar and Somali Regional States.
The clash erupted following public protests back in December, 2018, at which time the public, largely ethnically Issas, were raising demands for a better administration and infrastructure in the area. In addition, there have been also questions of inclusion under the Somali Regional State.
Three small kebeles, namelyEndefo, Adayetu and Gedamaytu–currently belonging to the Afar Regional State–in addition to other ethnic groups, it is also inhabited by Issa Somalis. Those disputed kebeleshave now become the centre of conflict.
For months, Afar Regional State was a relatively calm region in comparison to other parts of the country.
Yet, after weeks of backlashes, similar violence waswitnessedin the region where youths particularly from Afar Region decided to block the road that connect Ethiopia with Djibouti–a major economic corridor and the only sea outlet for the later.
Source from the area told The Reporter thatthe youth were motivated to block the roads toforce a response and intervention from the federal government to resolve the intensified clashes between the Issa nationalities and the Afar which is the main reason behind the security crisis in the region.
The roads including the railway lines were closed on Sunday, January 13 and continued through to the next day. This finally calledfor the intervention of the National DefenseForces. Yet, after a two-day stand- off, the youth have agreed to stop the blockage and decided to sit down for talks with the regional and federal government officials.
With exception of blocking the roads and burning tires, the protest was more or less peaceful, said a driver who lives in Afar.
For years, there has been small and separated clashes between the two pastoralist communities of Afar and Issa and was mainly caused by competition over grazing land.
However, this time around, the clash between the two seems more than that and it seems different groups are involved, according to the driver who knows the area for the past 20 years. For instance, the latest protests and clash were intensified following a killing from Afar, said the driver.
Furthermore, for weeks,The Reporterhas learnt that there were clashes between the two and separated killings of individuals who belong to the two groups.The confrontation between the two is still going on and people are dying, Abdi Bouh, deputy head of Agriculture Bureau at Endefo, told The Reporter.According to Abdi, the conflicts are still ongoing and the federal government is doing little about it.
It is to be recalled that just a few of months ago, the ruling party of the region–Afar National Democratic Party—replaced Haji Seyoum with AwolAreba. In addition, the party has also appointed Ayesha Mohammed (Eng.), Minister of Defense, to be the Chairman of the party.