Friday, June 30, 2006


Ethiopian fears after land battle.
By Amber Henshaw BBC News, Arero

The fighting has been between pastoralist clans. As sporadic clan killings continue in southern Ethiopia, where 90,000 people have fled their homes, local elders fear a flare-up of violence. Last month, more than 100 people died in fierce clashes between the pastoralist Borena and the Guji clans. Villages and houses have been left deserted in the area, some 500km south of the capital, Addis Ababa. The bitter dispute began three years ago when the government marked out a border between the two clans' zones. But this is the first time there have been serious clashes between them for about 15 years. People were killed from both sides.
Hundreds of those who fled have gone to the remote town of Arero to collect basic provisions like blankets and plastic sheeting from aid agencies. "They fought us, they killed our people and they displaced us from our homes, they burnt our houses," says Ali Aden, an elder from the Gabre clan, which was caught up in the violence. "We had to leave without anything - without even being able to pick up a stick. We have no clothes, we have no food. This sheet I am wearing was given to me yesterday." Arero's chief administrator Jaatanni Taadhii has confirmed between 27,000 and 29,000 people have sought refuge in his area. "The greatest need is for food, shelter, clothes and medicine," he said.

The most recent violence erupted after a series of confrontations - but one key incident was when the Guji drove their cattle on to Borena land without asking permission, against clan tradition. The Borena claim the Guji are trying to expand their territory but the Guji insist there has been a misunderstanding. "People were killed from both sides. The conflict area was vast and there are still dead bodies which have not been collected," says Guji elder Shiferow Henbi. "We all feel very strongly about what has happened - two brothers killing each other. The Guji are Oromo, the Borena are Oromo - suddenly this conflict happened and we are all devastated about the conflict with our brothers."

Clan leaders say some villages have been burnt to the ground in the fighting and people I spoke to in the area say the killings are continuing despite the fact that elders have appealed for calm.
Traditionally, the elders resolve minor disputes over land and resources but say this one is unusual because of the level of violence. They say they need outside help from an independent third-party. The Ethiopian Red Cross says peace-building in the area is essential.


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