Somali-Oromo border referendum of December 2004
UN OCHA-EUE, 28 January 2004:
- Conflicts have been going on between regional states of The Somali National Regional State (SNRS) and Oromiya regional state over the definition of their respective boundaries
- The October 2004 referendum which was supposed to put an end to a decade-old land row between the two regions caused tensions between communities
- Since November 2004, in East and West Hararghe there is increasing pressures on the minorities to flee
- There is fear of new displacements in areas where no referendum was conducted
- Conflicts between factions of the Somali Degodia and the Borana have been caused by competition over land and water resources
“The referendum which was held in October last year, was conducted in about 420 kebeles in 12 districts spilled across five zones of the zones of the Somali Region. According to the official results of the referendum, about 80% of the disputed areas have fallen under Oromia administration though irregularities in voting were heavily complained in many of them. This subsequently triggered mass migrations of the Somali communities in the said areas, particularly in parts of Goro-baqaqsa and Gurodamole districts of Afder zone and in parts of Liban, Shinile and Fik zones. As per the latest updates of the situation, these displacements are the result of increased harassment and subjugation from the Oromo side in the post- referendum period rather than by direct confrontations. Many of the displacements are in areas that either already transpired to the Oromos or pro-Oromo activities increased to scare out their competitors. A similar situation is potentially looming in areas that have not yet been transferred into the hands of the Oromos. The referendum strained relations and raised frictions and uneasiness in areas where no referendum was conducted. A recent example in this latter case could be the case of western Hudet of Liban where heightened uneasiness prevented pastoral mobility and inter-tribal sharing of resources in the western parts of the district.” (Email to NRC from the DPPB of the Somali region, 7 April 2005)
“As a result of the referendum last year between Oromiya and Somali Regions there has been an increase in ethnic clashes in disputed woredas in East and West Hararghe. In November 2004, IDPs began arriving in Miesso town and there are now more than 2,100 people living in temporary shelter. There are now new reports of ethnic clashes in West and East Hararghe. The Doba woreda authorities have requested immediate relief support from NGOs for 12,000 newly displaced people. Reports from the region indicate that five people were killed, 12 others wounded and 447 houses burnt during an outbreak of violence in the last fortnight. Another NGO, Catholic Relief Service has received an urgent request for assistance from the Goro Gutu woreda administration for immediate humanitarian needs such as food, shelter and clothing for 324 displaced persons. The IDPs originally from Erer woreda have fled to Karamille town as result of the violence.”
UNDP EUE, 31 March 2002, pp.1-2:
“Southeast Ethiopia has been a region racked by conflict and has experienced large inflows and outflows of refugees. In 1977/78, the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia led to huge outflows of Ethiopian Somalis into Somalia. Then in the late 1980's and early 1990's, the civil war in Somalia led to a reverse refugee flow of Somalis, including those who had previously fled from Ethiopia, crossing into southeast Ethiopia to escape fighting in Somalia.
Apart from international factors that destabilise the region, the population of the SNRS also has to sustain the negative impact of conflicts between regional states, primarily Oromia and SNRS, and between fractions of concerned ethnic groups such as the Somali Degodia and the Borana of the Oromo. The change of government in 1991 and the subsequent introduction of the “ethnic federalism” concept brought about the creation of regional states and governments. However, the exact definition of the boundary between the SNRS and Oromia, two entities that have evolved from this process, remains disputed. At the same time, ethnic groups from both sides compete over the ownership and access, particularly to rich grazing land and pasture as well as strategically and historically vital water points along the regional border. Adding to this, there are local conflicts within SNRS that are related to particular issues or commodities such as cattle raiding. Parties to these conflicts frequently define themselves along the lines of clan identities.
Furthermore, the semi-arid Somali Region is extremely drought prone. Drought is a recurrent and frequent phenomenon. Pastoralists experience a “mini-drought” each dry season stretching their livelihood to the limits. Both the international, and internal conflicts, and the recurrent droughts lead to population displacement.”
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