FAST Update Ethiopia: Trends in conflict and cooperation Mar - Apr 2007


Trends in Conflict and Cooperation


In the period under review the internal and border security of Ethiopia deteriorated. Armed Ethiopian opposition movements intensified their attacks within Ethiopia. In early March, the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF) abducted five Britons and eight Ethiopians on a visit to the northern part of the Afar Region close to the Eritrean border. The British citizens were released on 12 March and the Ethiopians on 23 April. Ethiopia dismissed ARDUF's claim of responsibility for the action and put the blame on Eritrea. According to local sources, the kidnappers were local Afar rebels dressed in Eritrean military uniforms. Eritrea denied any involvement. It is highly unlikely that their forces could mount operations from their Eritrean rear bases inside Ethiopia without the knowledge, consent, and support of the Eritrean government.

On 15 March, the Tigray People's Democratic Movement (TPDM) and the Southern Ethiopian Peoples' Front for Justice and Equality (SEFJE) claimed to have carried out a joint operation against the Ethiopian army in the Humera District of western Tigray on 8 March, in which 193 soldiers were killed and some 100 others wounded.

In early April, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) assumed responsibility for a military operation on 29 March in the Horo Gudru Zone of western Oromiya, in which 3 Ethiopian soldiers were killed. On 3 April, regional authorities reported that the Ethiopian army had intercepted a group of armed fighters from the Ethiopian People's Patriotic Front (EPPF) in Armacho, in the north Gondar Zone of the Amhara Region. They allegedly had infiltrated the area coming via Sudan from Eritrea. The sources say that 23 infiltrators were killed, 18 captured, and 112 voluntarily surrendered.

On 24 April, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) mounted a major military operation against civilian and military installations at the Abole oilfield (120 km from Jijiga) in the Degehabur District of the Somali Region. An attacking force of over 200 overwhelmed the 100 Ethiopian soldiers guarding the oilfield. Nine Chinese workers and 68 Ethiopians were killed. As they retreated, the attackers abducted seven Chinese and a number of Ethiopians. On 25 April, the Somali Regional State Police Commission announced the detention of four suspects. On 29 April, the ONLF handed over the abducted Chinese, one Ethiopian, and one other African to the ICRC after the Ethiopian government had agreed to a truce with the ONLF in order to facilitate the efforts of Somali elders towards the release of the captives.

In the second week of April, a resource dispute over land erupted in the Bench Maji zone of the southern Ethiopian region between southern Sudanese (having crossed into Ethiopia to start cultivation there) and Ethiopian farmers defending their land. The encounter resulted in 13 people from both sides being killed. On 11 April, about 100 armed Sudanese Murle attackers crossed into Gambella and attacked the Angela Peasant Association in the Jor District - 26 Anuak were killed, about 500 people were displaced, large herds of cattle raided and over 200 houses burnt down.