Horn of Africa
The World Food Program has suspended aid deliveries "until further notice" to Ethiopia's northern Tigray region following the discovery of the large-scale theft of relief food and its sale on local markets. USAID has also paused its funding of food assistance over the same issue. The concern over missing food—enough to feed 100,000 people—has centered on a warehouse in the Tigray city of Sheraro. Tigray's new regional interim president, Getachew Reda, said he had discussed the "growing challenge" of aid diversion with the WFP last month. According to USAID, "parties on both sides" of the two-year civil war have colluded to steal food through a "criminal network" established in the wake of last November's ceasefire. The agency said both the federal government and Tigray's interim administration have agreed to identify and hold accountable those responsible. Tigray is still facing "severe" food insecurity, despite improved humanitarian access.
Armed clashes in Ethiopia's Amhara region this week left several people dead, including two Catholic Relief Services aid workers. Gun battles and mass protests broke out in a number of Amhara towns over the government's decision to absorb regional special forces into the police or national army. Some units of the security forces in Amhara—Ethiopia's second largest region—refused to disarm and resisted the federal military. Businesses closed and aid workers suspended operations.
Fighting continues in Somalia's northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up arms in a bid to rejoin the internationally recognized Mogadishu government. Somaliland accuses the neighboring autonomous region of Puntland and the government of Ethiopia (which is officially attempting to broker a dialogue in the conflict) of intervening on the side of the re-integrationist rebels, who are headquartered in the town of Las Anod, Sool region. Somaliland has been effectively independent since 1991, and has seen a more stable and secular social order than the regions controlled by the Mogadishu government.
More than 200 people have died in three weeks of fighting around a disputed town in Somalia's northern breakaway region of Somaliland. Médecins Sans Frontières said March 1 a hospital it supports in Las Anod was hit for the fourth time in "indiscriminate" shelling that has depopulated the town. The medical charity described the situation as "desperate"; more than 95,000 refugees have reportedly fled into neighboring Ethiopia after three weeks of clashes. Local militias around Las Anod are fighting to pull three administrative regions–Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn–away from Somaliland, with the aim of rejoining Somalia. Meanwhile, Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia that is also in a territorial dispute with neighboring Somaliland, has sent in troops to support the militias. Somaliland has claimed that the jihadist group al-Shabab is also fighting in Las Anod–an allegation denied by Puntland. Somali leaders in Mogadishu have called on Somaliland to allow the three administrative regions to decide their own futures. The international community has called on all sides to abide by an earlier announced ceasefire.
A US special forces raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden killed a key regional ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, the Pentagon said in a statement Jan. 26. Sudani apparently died in a gun-battle after US troops descended on a cave complex in a mountainous area of northern Somalia. No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, officials said. The statement did not specify the location of the raid, but the announcement followed reports in Somali media describing a US drone strike on a stronghold of the self-declared Islamic State-Somalia (ISS) in the Iskushuban area of the Cal Miskaad mountains, in the northern autonomous region of Puntland. (Defense Post, Military.com, LWJ)
The war in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region has cooled down since the signing of a peace deal in November. But a separate conflict is intensifying further south, in Oromia, where civilians are suffering as anti-government rebels step up attacks. Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) guerillas were previously confined to the fringes of western and southern Oromia, Ethiopia's largest region. But analysts say the Tigray war created a security vacuum that has helped the OLA expand its long-running insurgency. The security situation is now "fast deteriorating," the UN's aid coordination agency, OCHA, warned in a report last month. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been uprooted and essential services are not functioning in some conflict-affected areas.
A month after the two parties signed a ceasefire agreement, the truce between Ethiopia's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is holding. But while aid flows into Tigray are scaling up, deliveries still aren't matching needs. The World Food Program said Nov. 25 that while road corridors into Tigray have reopened, access to some areas within the region remains off limits. Essential services, including banking and the internet, remain switched off, with no date set for restoring them. And while plans are proceeding for the disarmament of TPLF fighters, that process is complicated by Eritrean and Amhara forces, which were allies to the government during the conflict—and are reportedly still carrying out attacks on civilians in Tigray, including killings, kidnapping and looting.
The jihadist group al-Shabab is facing a local clan-based rebellion in central Somalia—one the embattled Mogadishu government hopes might spread throughout its zones of control. As resistance to the insurgent group has grown, lawmakers and clan elders have been backing the self-organized militia in pitched battles against al-Shabab. The militia—known as Ma'awisley, a reference to the traditional sarong worn in Somalia's rural areas—is strongest in Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Galmudug regions of Hirshabelle and Central states. (TNH, VOA)