Heavy clashes have erupted in the conflict-ridden Somali regional state on Sunday night between Ethiopian forces and the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Eyewitnesses in Wacays-Godle in Degehbur zone told media in the neighbouring Somalia that Ethiopian imposed a 24-hour curfew in the restive district following renewed clashes, reports Somalilandpress.
The unrest erupted on Sunday night after ONLF ambushed an Ethiopian military convey on their way to Degehbur township. The front claimed victory saying they killed more than a dozen soldiers in the attacks. There was no independent verification and the area is remote, and reachable only by foot. ONLF further stated it sent specially trained commandos to the region to free civilian prisoners.
The fighting re-erupted on Monday and is the worst reported between the two sides in recent months. Residents in Degehbur town said the Ethiopian army and the Liyu police swept through the town and neighbouring villages for second straight day in mass arrest of ethnic Somali civilians. At least 80 civilians have been taken away in the latest attempt to create panic and terror. There was no immediate word on the situation Tuesday, but residents said the violence led to massive displacement of people and considerable loss of property.
The violence comes days after peace talks between the Addis Ababa government and ONLF ended in the Kenyan capital without a breakthrough. The faction accused the government of blocking peaceful means to end one of Africa’s longest running conflicts.
The group accused Addis Ababa of blocking negotiations by urging them to accept the Ethiopian federal constitution as precondition for further mediation. They said the constitution was a tactical move on Ethiopia’s behave to derail mediation efforts arguing the paper did not reflect the wish of the region’s ethnic Somalis. Just yesterday reports in Jigjiga, the administrative capital, said the Federal government ousted the region’s Somali leader (see Ethiopia sacks the president of Somali Region).
Some of the locals blamed the latest unrest on three candidates for the state’s presidency. They claimed the Ethiopian government would only replace the sacked regional president with an individual with tough image and fear. So now the three possible replacements are out trying to outdo each other in battle grounds. ONLF has been engaged in a simmering conflict with the government for nearly three decades and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.