Dire Dawa:Defense force issued stern warning amid security crisis in the city

Defense Force vows to take “appropriate measures” if the violence in Dire Dawa is not ending. The army wants youth group to discuss their grievance peacefully with the city administration and stop closing roads.

Dire Dawa _ Defense
Photo credit : DW Amharic

January 25,2019

The Ethiopian Defense Force seems to be increasingly dragged into law enforcement business rather than issues of national Defense.

As the security situation in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s chartered city in the South East of the country, worsens, the Eastern Command Post of the Ethiopian Defense Force issued a warning this evening calling for an end to violence in the city or else those who are involved in it will face what the eastern command post thinks is an “appropriate” measure.

Protest and violence in the city has been going on for about five days now. And so far one child is confirmed dead and 10 others have sustained non-life threatening wounds. The Defense Force tends to see the development in the city as a threat to order in the country.

Renewed violence started to unfold in the city on January 19, 2019 when a group of youth throws rocks to attack followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Church who were returning from procession ceremony of Ark of the Covenant at Egziabherab church during the occasion of Timkat (Epiphany).

Then organized youth groups took to the street the following day to stage demonstration against the city on grounds of “bad governance in the city administration and fuel shortage, as reported by DW Amharic.

Roads within the city and those linking the city to another city have been closed with big rocks there by hindering mobility and business activity. For example, road linking Dire Dawa and Addis Ababa has been closed.

The administration does not seem to link the violence to bad governance. For Dire Dawa authorities, for example Mayor of the city – Ibrahim Usman, those youth groups involved in the violence are linked to former Ethio-Somali administration (Heego) and those groups who do not want recognition for the city.

Dire Dawa police on its part claims that the violence has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion and that it will bring to justice those who were involved in the violence in different forms. So far about 84 individuals who are believed to have been involved in the violence in the city are arrested.

Yet, the tension in the city is not eased after five days. In fact, reports by DW Amharic say that business and banks were closed and internet is disconnected today. Telephone connection is erratic.

Despite the claims from the city administration regarding the identity of those who are involved in the violence, protesters who took to the street have also demanded an end to what is referred to as “40:40:20” administrative arrangement in the city which is based on the ruling coalition’s ethnic politics and constitution, according to DW Amharic report. As per the arrangement, 40 percent of the city administration is ethnic Oromo, 40 percent is ethnic Somali and the rest 20 percent is for the rest of ethnic groups in Ethiopia- and Ethiopia has more than eighty ethnic groups.

Whatever the case is, the Defense Force posted in the region (Eastern Command Post) wants youth group in the city to end the violence and discuss their grievance with the city administration. The response for not ending the violence and protest will be “an appropriate action” from the defense force, to enforce rule of law and protect the safety and security of residents in the city.

Ethiopia’s Defense Force had some success in terms of restoring order and law in some parts of the country, for example in Wollega, the western part of Ethiopia, where there had been an operation to disarm militant Oromo ethno-nationalist elements whose leaders reportedly reconciled yesterday with leaders of the party that is governing the region.

What many Ethiopians seem to question, however, is whether relying on the Defense Force for law enforcement works is sustainable and right.

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