By Mohamed Hadi Gafdid
There have been expressed worries about the sudden and unplanned dismantling of the Special Police forces in Ethiopia. Several communities openly expressed their objection to Addis Ababa’ move, while others registered complaints.
The Somali people in particular expressed a serious and unmitigated vulnerability with these decisions due to several border conflicts with neighbouring Regional States. The most vulnerable is western Sitti Region whose residents are left without defence in the face of aggressive Afar Regional government.
The Afar Regional Government, which has been a close ally of the central government during the Tigray conflict (2020-2022), has gained both the political and military support of the central government against Somalis in Wester Sitti. Now leaving this community defenceless is worrisome.
The state sponsor ethnic cleansing against Somalis in western Sitti did not end yet, despite Addis Ababa’s order to disarm regional forces Awol Arba, President of the Regional Government of Afar, is sticking to his guns and has so far showed no sign to disarm or even dismantle his forces. On the other hand, Somali Regional State’s political retailer, Mustafe Omar, executed Abiy’s instruction with delay and dismantled Liyu Police whereas Oromo, Afar and Amhara reinforced their paramilitary forces. According to Faisal Roble, Mustafe Omer is to Prime Minister Abiy what Prime MInister Margaret Thatcher was to Ronald Regan. When both are told to jump, they obediently respond to “how high?”
Shamelessly, Mustafe Omer did not even inform the people of the region and the regional police of the correct decision passed by Addis Ababa. In a recent speech, he flatly lied and said “there is nothing change to the organisation of Somali Special Forces.” He continued to say, “they will continue to still protect the borders, secure the security of the region, and staff customers and kellos.” This has confused both the Special Forces and the Somali region at large.
He propagates this falsehood, while Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) are taking over camps and institutions. As confirmed by local sources , a large number of the Ethiopian National Army have entered the western Sitti and landed in the town of Asbuli, which is the main station of the Somali regional Liyuu police force. The local people were not aware of the arrival of the ENDF but they entered the Sitti region during the night without the consultation of the local administrators and traditional leaders. As reported by local residents, the deployment took place in the middle of night, a decision which terrorised equally the Somali units and the residents in the town. Why such secrecy in deployment is still being debated.
“The reason that ENDF is deployed at night time is to avoid what has happened in the Amhara region where special forces almost more than half run with weapons. They want to be decisive and be sure to coordinate well to avoid uprisings and resistance from Somali police ” Dr Abdi Bubal.
The Special Somali Forces are no longer in control of several regional compasses. In reaction to the speedy changes taking place on the ground, Dr Abdi Bubal, analyst of Ethiopian conflict said that this is part of Somali Liyu police disarmament operation.”
A week ago, Ethiopian federal government have said that and dissolving the regional Special Forces and integrating them into the federal army or police will create a strong and unified force in a country
Nevertheless, the Amhara regional state and Afar region have refused to disarm their force, protesting over the federal decision. in Amhara believe the government’s plans would leave their state vulnerable to attack from other regions.
For the last five years Afar Regional forces, Afar rebels known as Ugugumo and local Afar militiamen, Eritrean trained militias alongside with Ethiopian military force have sustained well coordinating forceful land eviction, mass atrocities against Somalis in western Sitti.
More than 194 of horrific attacks against the indigenous Somali population occurred in western Sitti between 2018 and 2022, resulting in 9,055 incidents of abuses of human rights against Somalis in Sitti, including 7,308 killings, 11,660 injuries, 180 cases of rape, and 162 cases of abduction and forced displacement that directly affected at least 194,517 people, at least 700 of whom were members of vulnerable groups of the population: children (78), women (290), the elderly (38). Furthermore, all rape victims were women, with nearly 180 cases, including 23 underage girls.
These horrible atrocities are characterised as crimes against humanity in international law. The army was there and allowed Afar Special Forces and militias from neighbouring Eritrea to commit ethnic cleansing and war crimes against innocent people and forcibly expel survivors from their homes and lands.
Equally worrisome is the invasion of western Sitti by Afar forces has exposed hundreds of thousands to Humanitarian catastrophic, displacement, and starvations. Unfortunately, the Somali regional state has decided not intervene in the face of aggressive and horrific Afar aggression in the last four years.
Because the Afar region was an ally of the ENDF in the war in Tigray, ENDF regiments deployed in western Sittie were often disguised to hide their identities and fought alongside Afar invaders and committed gross human rights violations. They were also supplied with sophisticated weapons by the federal government.
While the federal government of Prime Minister Abiy claims to disarm all Special Forces, there are no facts on the ground showing the disarmament or dismantling of the Afar side. On the Other hand such a process is moving with speed on the Somalis side. Such uneven handedness plus the bias of ENDF and Addis Ababa against Somalis makes western Sitti region a vulnerable region in the face of dismantling the Special Forces.
Therefore, the Somali elders and intellectuals see the deployment of the army as a continuation of the state’s plans to commit more atrocities against the Somali minority in Ethiopia. And this dark cloud hanging on western Sitti region is a warning sign we can only ignore at our peril.
The fact that Somalis are being taken away from their weapon and allowed Afar to have their to the army and deployment Ethiopian National Defense Forces, who have a lot of hatred and racial bigotry to Somalis, this will jeopardy the safety of the people of West Sitti and its threatening the existence of the Somali ethnic minority in Ethiopia
Mohamed Hadi Gafdid
Email: [email protected]
Mohamed Hadi Gafdid is an Independent Researcher and Columnist
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