Ethiopia: East and West Hararge Access Snapshot (As of 14 June 2019)

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Historical resource-based conflicts - over water and grazing land - have been prevalent between communities across boundary areas between Oromia and Somali regions. Localized skirmishes in 2015 displaced thousands of agro-pastoralists. This continued in 2017, and in August - September, conflict escalated along the entire regional boundary resulting in massive displacements.
Violence was directed at expulsing communities along ethnic lines from contested territories and urban centers. Ethnic Oromos were moved into Oromia from Somali region’s rural and urban areas, while populations from both groups fled boundary areas into their respective regions, most visibly to large towns. In early 2019, new population displacements were reported from Erer district in Siti zone (Somali region) to Goro Gutu and Metta woredas (East Hararge).

Since February 2019, the Government invested significant efforts in promoting reconciliation, with a number of peace conferences. As part of the process, the Ethiopian Defence Forces (EDF) deployed in kebeles of return and restored law and order, necessary for the IDPs to progressively return. Massive government-supported IDP returns were conducted from March to May 2019. The return process, in terms of preparations and consideration of the affected population’s desires, appears to be conducive to sustainable returns. While the majority of the IDP were eager to return to their homes - if assistance and house rehabilitation provided - there remain significant gaps in terms of access to shelter materials and access to basic services. As a result, thousands of returned IDPs both in Oromia and Somali regions currently remain in “transitional - collective sites”, akin to secondary displacement.

The coordination between authorities and partners, including on planning and information sharing to assisting IDPs returns, is stronger than in other return areas of Ethiopia. This notwithstanding, lack of funding and capacity of government counterparts and partners explain the so far limited response, and the frustration of IDPs after years of displacement is growing. There is an urgent need for investments in rehabilitation and livelihoods recovery to sustain peace efforts and the sustainability of returns.

Despite this general improvement of the security situation, humanitarian partners do not have yet access to some areas mostly due to a combination of security and road conditions factors.

In East Hararge, five kebeles in Kumbi woreda and three in Meyu Muluke have been occupied by the Somali Liyu Police since 2015, impending the return of over 80,000 IDPs. In addition, the situation in two kebeles in Meyu Muluke woredas remains fragile, with partners only able to access partially. Since November 2017, access to some parts of Gursum woredas is restricted, limiting assistance to some 12,000 people. In September 2018, an aid worker was killed near Roge IDP site (Meyu Muluke woreda), and assistance to over 10,000 IDPs stopped for months. In October 2018, a man opened fired during a food distribution in Chinaksen woreda, wounding an aid worker. On 26 May 2019, conflict between two clans was reported in Jarso woreda, halting operations and forcing the evacuation of aid personnel. In terms of physical constraints, returning IDPs to Lakole kebele (Babile City) are facing challenges to access assistance due to the bad condition of the main road from Darera Arba to Lakole primary school, as a result of the rainy season.

In West Hararge, in December 2018, a security incident in Asebot town prompted the intervention of the EDF and the temporary suspension of activities. Partners report challenges in accessing some kebeles in Miesso woreda and Gumbi Bordode woredas, while incidents related to the border conflict were reported in Walitane site. In early May, a mass demonstration over interruption of electricity and water supplies in Mechara town (Daro Lebu woreda) restricted partners’ movements in the woreda, and prompted the evacuation of aid personnel. On 13 May, another conflict between Oromo clans in Gadulo kebele (Daro Lebu woreda) affected assistance to IDPs in Gadulo. On 23 May, in Machara city (Daro Lebu woreda) a rumour regarding alleged plans by Muslim members of the community to attack Christians prompted the blockage of a road and partners evacuated their staff as a precautionary measure.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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