Death and Destruction in Garba-Isse as Afar Militia ransack the city

The local government in Somali Galbeed has confirmed on Tuesday that “hundreds” of Somalis have been “massacred” on Saturday in Garba-Ciise as Afar militia attacked and looted the town.

Somali Galbeed spokesman, Ali Bedel speaking to Reuters stated that the “Afar militia massacred hundreds of civilians, mainly women and children” in the border town. A town in the crux of a prolonged border dispute in Ethiopia.

A dispute recently ignited by the Ethiopian Federal Election Commission (EFEC) decision to exclude a number of disputed border villages in Somali Galbeed from voting and forcing residents to vote in nearby villages. A move that angered the Somali regional government but was welcomed by the Afar government.

‘Hundreds Massacred’

Afar militia illegally crossed the border between the Somali and Afar regions on Saturday. Local reports are suggesting the militia entered the border town in which they indiscriminately raped, murdered and looted Somali women and children, homes and business. Footage of the attack circulated across social media as perpetrators of the attack recorded themselves looting.

Ethnic tensions between the Afar and the Somalis in Ethiopia have been high in recent years. In April of this year, a battle erupted between Afar and Somali regional governments in which over 100 individuals died including women and children.

Ali Bedel further elucidated to Reuters that after the attack “angry youths” had blocked a main road in an Afar area on Sunday and Monday that connects Addis Ababa to the sea port in Djibouti. The spokesman refrained from identifying the youths or where they are from according to Reuters.

‘Local Response

The local militia known as the Isse Liberation Force (ISF) responded with the recruitment of volunteers across the Sitti region. Within a day, the local Somali militia began a counter offensive according to reports on the ground. The ISF managed to the push Afar forces back to around 1km away from the occupied town of Garba-Ciise where they were asked to stop and wait for reinforcements by the regional authority.

Local unconfirmed reports are also outlining around 29 deaths on the Somali side with around 6 to 7 civilian injuries. While the exact number has not been confirmed to Horumar, social media and local reports indicate that the Afar militia suffered heavy causalities with many being captured alive as they fled the gallant forces of the ISF protecting Somali civilians.

‘Silent Authority

The Cagjar-led regional government in Jijiga is yet to officially respond to the attack in Garba-Ciise on Saturday. No regional forces have been deployed to the border region as of yet with local militias defending local residents.

Many have criticised the government of failing to protect the native Somali lands and their inhabitants in the region as Cagjar decided to send troops to Tigray to help defend the Amhara while simultaneously remaining quiet on the situation facing the Somalis in Garba-Ciise.

What Next?

Ethiopia’s federal system seems to be dismantling, with regional ethnic authorities clashing over territories and allegiances. The killing and fighting between Somalis and Afars is part of a bigger picture, the beginning to what seems to be an Ethiopian fragmentation.

Cagjar must return forces from the frontline against the Tigray to fight the Afar frontline as well as send reinforcements to the ISF militia to ensure protection and security of the local population in the border region. The silence from the Ethiopian federal government in Addis Ababa demonstrates that this issue can only be resolved by Somalis.

Only Somalis will protect Somalis. The Federal government of Somalia must respond to this atrocity.

Learning Curve

The deterioration of federalism in Ethiopia must be a learning curve for Somalia. Federalism creates miniature states with individual policies and security forces separate from the central government. Consequently, the central government is powerless to prevent wars between states within the federation.

The vulnerability of influence and interference of foreign countries is showcased in the Tigray War. We already witness such as flaws within the Somali state at the moment with Puntland and Jubaland.

A federal system built on clan enclaves entrenches clan identity and infuses a sense of difference between a homogenous society. The dangerous of a federal system is all the more evident in Ethiopia today, and the fate of Somalia might not be much different.

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