Unrest in some parts of Ethiopia has been taking the form of a “colour revolution”, with a clear intent to seize power, Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa declared earlier this month as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Addis Ababa. A strike in Oromia, a hotbed of anti-government protests for over two years, was choking the capital. A state of emergency was declared in February after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in the wake of continued protests.
Musa Ali, the chief elder responsible for an over 30,000 sq. km portion of north-eastern Oromia, told this reporter that federal forces arrested the deputy commander of the regional police heading a riot squad. The deputy head of the western Oromia’s Kelem Wolega zone’s administration and security office was also arrested, the zone’s vice administrator Nebiyu Nabsu said, after the dismissal of his boss, held out as instrumental in forging police-community relations.
Since Ethiopia suspended its Constitution on February 16, federal forces have arrested a swathe of Oromo police officials, Mayors, and high-profile administrators. Bekane Tadesse, a lecturer at Addis Ababa University, says hardliners are using the emergency to take retaliatory action against the Oromia administration over its measures against ‘controbandists’— figures in the army and the federal government said to control checkpoints and illicit businesses on the internal boundary between Oromia and Ethiopia’s Somali region. The conflict between the Oromo administration and the controbandists is estimated to have displaced a million people.
In East Hararghe at the upper extreme of the boundary, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces shot dead five Oromo and wounded 13 on February 11 at Hamaresa, a site that sheltered about 5,000 Oromo who fled their homes, Karim Bashir, a doctor, said. “Half the population fled into the forests.”
After Mr. Tillerson left, the army announced that it “mistakenly” killed nine civilians and injured 12 at the southern extreme of the boundary in Moyale, a town divided between Kenya and Ethiopia. Oromia’s Justice Bureau spokesperson was reportedly arrested this week after disputing that the killings were a “mistake”. Once a military post to control the border of Ethiopian monarchy’s empire against the British in Kenya, Moyale has become a theatre of shifting allegiances between the military wing of the banned Oromo Liberation Front, local security personnel, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, clan interests and local militias.
State-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corp. has put the numbers who have fled Moyale at 40,000, while the Mayor of the city has given a figure of 8,200. “People in the border villages along the stretch of Moyale are moving into Kenya at different entry points,” said Halkano Halake, the spokesperson for the Governor of Marsabit county on the Kenyan side of Moyale. Over 800 asylum seekers are now hosted in eight temporary camps in Marsabit county, its Governor, Mohammed Mohamoud Ali, said in a statement. “The emergency situation is worsening”, the food security situation has “reached a crisis phase”, and some of the camps are “not secure due to proximity to the border”, the statement said.