Ethnic Strife in Ethiopia Threatens a Key U.S. Ally

Ethnic Strife in Ethiopia Threatens a Key U.S. Ally

ethnic strife in ethiopia threatens a key u s ally Ethnic Strife in Ethiopia Threatens a Key U.S. AllyAn Oromo family hangs out their laundry at a camp for the displaced outside Adama, Ethi­o­pia, on Oct. 4. Fighting between Ethiopia’s Oromo and Somali regional states has led to tens of thousands fleeing to camps. (BY Paul Schemm/For The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

‘They started to burn our houses’: Ethnic strife in Ethiopia threatens a key U.S. ally

ADAMA, Ethi­o­pia — A largely hidden war in remote areas of Ethiopia has killed hundreds of people, displaced more than 100,000 others and raised the specter of ethnic cleansing, potentially destabilizing an important U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism.

With the strongest army in the Horn of Africa and second-largest population on the continent, Ethiopia has been a major ally in battling regional terrorist groups such as al-Shabab and a pillar of stability between two disintegrating states, South Sudan and Somalia.

But that hard-earned reputation has been thrown in doubt by weeks of fighting between rival ethnic groups in Ethiopia’s neighboring Oromia and Somali regions and by accompanying reports of massacres and expulsions.

“They started to burn our houses, the Liyu police,” said Mohammed Nur Jamal of the Oromo ethnic group, referring to a paramilitary force from the neighboring Somali Region. With several dozen others, Jamal, a portly middle-aged man who wears an embroidered Muslim cap, now lives in a makeshift camp near the Oromo city of Adama. The camp is one of dozens that have sprung up to house those who have fled their homes.

“We lived like brothers and sisters for many years,” Jamal said. “We never fought like this. We even married together and owned properties together.”

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Local media say at least 150,000 Oromos have been expelled from the Somali Region and are now living in camps. The federal government has declined to give exact figures, pending an investigation, but admitted that “hundreds” have died.

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa said in a Sept. 19 statement it was “disturbed by the troubling reports of ethnic violence and the large-scale displacement of people living along the border between the Oromia and Somali regions.” It called for an investigation into which groups were behind the violence.

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