Saturday, July 2, 2016

Ethiopia - West must act to stop the Liyu police terror in the Somali region

By Ali Mohamed - A US-financed paramilitary force known as the Liyu police are terrorising the civilian population in the eastern Ethiopian Somali-majority region of Ogaden with impunity.

Two weeks ago, away from the gaze of the international media, the Liyu (Amharic for “First”) police slaughtered more than 40 villagers, including women and children, in Jama Dubad, a remote hamlet in the region, according to Somali news websites.

The Liyu police were retaliating after a group of armed men attacked Customs police for confiscating a vehicle transporting khat (miraa) belonging to a local dealer, for failing to pay taxes.

Since 2008, the Liyu police have committed similar massacres in the villages near Ethiopia’s porous border with Somalia and the unrecognised Republic of Somaliland: For instance, in June 2015, the Liyu police attacked local ethnic Somali livestock herders, on Ethiopia’s  border with central Somalia, leaving 50 people dead.

Video footage showing the aftermath of the gruesome killings shot on a cellphone went viral on Somali news websites:  In the video, groups of the thuggish Liyu police with camouflage uniforms are seen desecrating dozens of dead bodies, including young children, who were shot in the head. Their atrocities constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The Liyu police have no formal training or discipline, yet they have the full support of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) government in Addis Ababa.

The TPLF initially set up the Liyu police as a counter-insurgency force against the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a group fighting for self-determination for the Somali-majority region.

The unelected governor of the region, Abdi Omar, also known as “Iley,” commands and controls the Liyu police. Most of the units of the Liyu police are recruited from his own clan.

Since the Liyu police were instituted, Mr Iley has been using the force to bully and intimidate the civilian Somali population in the region. The Liyu police’s “scorched-earth” tactics include: “Mass killing, kidnappings, rape, looting livestock, destroying wells, and razing villages to the ground,” according to Human Rights Watch.

The victims of the Jama Dubad terror have kinship with the four million Somaliland population, especially those in the town of Burao. The relatives of the victims and people throughout Somaliland are grieving because of the horrific crimes and deaths caused by the Liyu police.

The leaders of the United States and the EU, who provide billions of dollars in aid to Ethiopia, must speak out forcefully when the Ethiopian government’s security forces abuse their own people, and against the culture of impunity that prevails there.

The West should use all means necessary including aid cuts, travel restriction, asset freezes, and public condemnation.

The West and the United Nations must  hold accountable the commander of the Liyu police, Mr Iley, the Al Capone of Jigjiga, the region’s capital, and his enablers in the Ethiopian army, who are behind these heinous acts.

More importantly, the US and EU should also prevail upon the Ethiopian government to invite a UN rapporteur and human-rights experts to investigate the atrocities in Jama Dubad village, and to let the media cover the Ethiopian Somali region.

This paramilitary outfit is not going to change its behaviour or reform itself because it is not a professional police force operating under the rule of law. It is neither protecting nor serving the people in the region.