The United States says Ethiopia must open up its political space if its is to cement its place in the future as a “strong, prosperous and democratic nation.”
This was contained in a press statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa. The September 19, 2017 statement was referring to reports of escalated ethnic violence in Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions.
“We are 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, particularly in Hararge, although the details of what is occurring remain unclear.
“We urge the Ethiopian government to conduct a transparent investigation into all allegations of violence and to hold those responsible accountable. At the same time, on the local level, communities must be encouraged and given space to seek peaceful resolutions to the underlying conflicts,” the statement read in part.
The government has admitted that clashes along the border of Ethiopia’s Oromia and Somali regions have displaced around 50,000 people, deaths of another 50 people have been reported according to a senior regional official.
Calls for Ethiopia to reform have been long trumpeted – but political watchers say Addis Ababa has done very little in that direction.
The clashes which have been put down to competition for resources between people in both states has prompted the government to send the military in. The Somalis are predominantly pastoralists whiles the Oromias are largely farmers – the fight for common resources like water and land is part of the official reason advanced.
Another reason is that a referendum meant to clearly define the border regions of the respective states has yet to be fully implemented.
Amidst all of that, Oromo activists hold that the chaos is championed by a federal police unit known as the ‘Liyu Police.’ Activists aver that the unit is stoking the violence with the aim of giving the Oromia region – one of the biggest and most populous in the country – a bad name.
“We believe Ethiopia’s future as a strong, prosperous, and democratic nation depends on open and inclusive political dialogue for all Ethiopians, greater government transparency, and strengthening the institutions of democracy and justice. These recent events underscore the need to make more rapid and concrete progress on reform in these areas.” the release concluded.