Oil contracts at issue in Somaliland conflict?
Fighting continues in Somalia's northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up ams 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 regon. 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. But now Mogadishu is asserting its right to grant oil contracts to foreign companies within Somaliland's territory. Local media note that the new conflict erupted just after Mogadishu announced the issuing of an exploration lease to Genel Energy in Somaliland. The move was protested as "illegal" by the Somaliland government, based in the city of Hargeisa.
Clashes over contested Somaliland regions
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.
Ethiopia: violence ebbs in Tigray, flares in Oromia
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.
Ethiopia: continued fighting hinders Tigray aid
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.
Eritrea in mass mobilization for Tigray offensive
More than a month after renewed clashes broke out in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, there are few signs of de-escalation. A new air-strike hit Tigray's capital of Mekelle on Sept. 23, while the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), accused Eritrea of launching a full-scale offensive in support of the Ethiopian government. There are reports that Eritrea (which has a historical enmity against the TPLF) is mobilizing army reservists, with notices handed out in Asmara, the capital. The return to combat came after a five-month truce that saw back-channel meetings between Mekelle and Addis Ababa but no formal talks. The risk that fresh fighting poses to civilians was underscored by UN investigators, who submitted their first report on the two-year conflict. The investigators accused Ethiopia's government of war crimes in Tigray, and of using starvation as a counterinsurgency tool. Tigrayan forces were also accused of serious human rights abuses.
Al-Shabab's Ethiopia front collapses
A large-scale incursion by the Somali jihadist group al-Shabab into eastern Ethiopia has been defeated. The government claims to have killed more than 800 militants in heavy fighting that began at the end of July. The attempt to open a new front in Ethiopia was not only a military defeat for al-Shabab, but also a political failure. Although some of al-Shabab's leaders are from the area, ideologically the Somali region of Ethiopia is known for its religious tolerance. Local community and religious leaders rallied to oppose the group, and have pledged to resist future infiltration.
Massacres escalate in Ethiopia's Oromia state
More than 200 civilians were killed June 18 at the village of Tole Kebele in the West Wollega zone of Ethiopia's Oromia regional state. The massacre, which targeted members of the Amhara ethnicity, is being blamed by authorities on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). Amhara militias in the region have been cooperating with the official security forces in counterinsurgency operations against the OLA, resulting in reprisal attacks on villages. However, OLA commander Kumsa Dirriba denies that his forces carry out attacks on civilians, claiming that the national army is "solely responsible" for the killings of Amhara civilians in Oromia. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, the dynamic is spreading into neighboring Gambella regional state, which has seen heavy fighting in recent days between the army and joint rebel forces of the OLA and Gambella Liberation Front (GLF), with dozens of civilians among the slain. (Addis Standard, NYT, BBC News, Ethiopia Insight, Ethiopia Insight)
UN: record 100 million people displaced worldwide
According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose to 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Burma, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2022, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country and forced some 6 million to flee the country as refugees. This has pushed the total displaced to over 100 million for the first time.
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