News: Clashes in Somali, Oromia states bordering areas displace thousands from Bale zone as hunger claims scores of lives

Addis Abeba: Clashes in Somali, Oromia states bordering areas displaced thousands of civilians from an entire village. The displaced villagers from Bale zone, Gura Damole Woreda say “armed elements” who crossed from neighboring Somali region bordering areas launched attacks, preventing villagers from markets and traveling to receive humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile, the villagers said at least 20 people have died of hunger in the areas.

The entire population of Gura Damole Woreda in Bale Zone has fled to neighboring woredas, according to a report on DW Amharic. Residents said that “armed elements” from the Somali region have prevented them from receiving humanitarian assistance and going to the market.

Wendemagen Kebada, an Official of the zonal Disaster, and Risk Management Secretariat Bureau corroborated that Akoltu kebele of the Gura Damole woreda borders the Haro Dibe of the Somali region, and the residents have been exposed to suffering when conflict arises.

Hassen Ibro Adam, a displaced civilian from Gura Damole, stated that the attacks by ‘armed elements’ from the neighboring region forced all residents from Akoltu Kebele to flee to Dello Mena woreda of the Bale zone. Furthermore, residents from up to six kebeles have fled to Dawe Qachan and Berbere woredas.

People couldn’t go to market due to roads not being available and stayed put in one place under encirclement and as a result, around 20 people died of hunger

“The problem we are facing now is the former government in region 5 organized armed entities and cross over the administrative boundary and evict us by farming our land. In Akoltu kebele, the entire population has been displaced. In other kebeles, looting and killings were still ongoing until last night. Attacks involve heavy weaponry including Dishkas. There are two things that adversely impacted us. Due to the drought, we have nothing to feed our cattle. Additionally, aid can’t reach us because the roads are blocked and what comes will be stolen as they move on the roads. Consecutively, people are fleeing with what they can. There is not one person that is left in Akoltu kebele. Everyone has been displaced to Dello Mena. Those displaced from Kotu and Barkale kebeles have been displaced to Barbare and Dawe Qachan woredas”, he said explaining the exposure to attacks.

According to Hassen, humanitarian assistance destined for them has been stolen on the roads by armed elements since April. People couldn’t go to market due to roads not being available and stayed put in one place under encirclement and as a result, around 20 people died of hunger.

Wendemagegn Kebede adds that this hitherto peaceful place is nascent to contentions, even the residents of Akoltu kebele can’t even shop in the market due to individuals with ‘political interests’, who conspire to evict peaceful civilians.

The official notes that they have been observing this conflict for two months, even though attempts were made at the zonal level nevertheless to no avail. He attributes the cause of the problem to people crossing the administrative boundary to settle and start farming, under name of investment.

Noting that not solving the problem from its core might cause a great influx of displacements, the official asked the regional authorities of both regions and the federal government should intervene.

All residents were displaced from Akoltu kebele, however, the attacks extend up to Jeberi woreda town of Gura Damole and other kebeles. These attacks have caused the deaths of many, even though the official didn’t give a specific number.

Conflicts in the border areas between Somali and Oromia regional states in 2016 – 2018 claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians while more than 1.2 million people were displaced. Majority have not returned to their residences and still live in IDP camps dispersed in various places in Oromia region. The conflict was attributed mainly to the Somali region administration under its former president Abdi Illey, but sporadic clashes continued long after his overthrow resulting in loss of lives, properties and displacement. AS

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