Protests in Oromia region against paramilitary forces

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Protests erupted in Oromia region against paramilitary forces, known as Liyu police (“special” in Amharic), according to reports. Large demonstrations were held this morning in eastern Ethiopian towns of Aweday, Deder, Kobo, Chelenko, according to various reports and confirmed by head of Oromia Communication Affairs, Addisu Arega.
The demonstrations sparked after reports circulated that Liyu police attacked Oromo residents living in Somali region’s capital forcing them to flee to Harar yesterday. There was also talk of shops and houses belonging to the Oromos looted. According to the VOA, the event that triggered the wide protest was news of three Oromia region officials arrested last night in Bombas town on their way to Harar by the Somali region security forces. The three persons, the Oromia regions’ Gursum woreda security deputy head, Mohammed Abdurahman, the woreda’s former administrator, Selan Mohammed, Oromia region anti-riot member, Abdurjibar were detained for the whole night and two of them were shot dead in the morning. Mohammed Abdulrahman sustained heavy injury while trying to escape. He is currently hospitalized in Harar hospital.
The impromptu demonstrators came out this morning in the towns to express their anger. Some of them were carrying slogans such as “Stop Liyu police from killing people,” and “The Federal Government should protect us.”
In Deder town, the rally started peacefully but turned violent, and at least two protesters were wounded after security forces fired live bullets. The demonstrators reportedly threw paving stones and attacked government official’s residence. In a separate protest in the town of Aweday known for its “khat” trade, protesters burned cars that transported “khat” to Somali regions. Public transport services in the area were restricted because of the protests, partially paralyzing the “khat” and other trades.Several arrests have been made.
Recently there have been a number of incidents in several border towns where the Oromo and Somali ethnic groups clashed. It is not yet clear if the Liyu police participated in the attacks. Head of Oromia Communication Affairs, Addisu Arega told Deutsche Well’s Amharic service that Liyu forces and Somalia region militias indeed took part in the attack in eastern of town of Miesso last week. He said one member of the Liyu force has been arrested.
Just two days ago, it was announced that negotiations were held between the two leaders of the regions, Lemma Megersa and Abdi Illey, in the presence of Minister of Federal and Pastoralist Affairs to end the standoff.
The claim of the latest attack against Oromo residents in Jigjiga town was not verified by independent sources. A Facebook commentator from the town wrote that, “No attack committed by Liyu police in Jijga town against Oromos. There was conflict for some other reason and those who fled have simply fled due to fear of unknown reason,” Khayr Iyo Xigmad Doon wrote.
Ethiopian authorities formed the Liyu police for the Somali region in 2007, when an armed conflict between the insurgent Ogaden National Liberation Front and the government escalated. By 2008, the Liyu police had become a prominent counterinsurgency force recruited and led by then-regional security chief Abdi Mohammed Omar. Abdi became the president of Somali Regional State in 2010, and the Liyu police continue to report to him.

Arefayné Fantahun
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