ETHIOPIA: Deepening Crisis Between the Afar and Issa

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The Afar-Issa Crisis in the Afar kilil is the next ticking ethnic time bomb in Ethiopia
The Afar-Issa Crisis in the Afar kilil is the next ticking ethnic time bomb in Ethiopia

By Tedla Asfa,

I AM one of those who is closely following the current crisis between Afar and Issa in Ethiopia. I personally know that part of Ethiopia in 1980s. At Gewane, I witnessed loss of lives due to fighting/raids by Afar and Issa. It was a fight for grazing area and water source then.

The recent VOA Amharic program debating two “educated” Ethiopians from both ethnic groups however was an alarm for me. It is now a war to take land at the expense of the other for future autonomy or independence. It is a war to change the fact on the ground which stayed for at least one hundred years to a new reality for future independence if the current arrangement of ethnic federation falters some how.

Similar things had happened early in 1990s after TPLF came to power. Huge tracts of land from Gonder was demarcated to Tigray. Similar things though in small scale from Wello to Tigray. Fertile lands of sesame is now under Tigrai region. Tigrai has now a boundary with Sudan for the first time.

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What is happening between Afar and Issa is a similar rush to take land by Gun. The regime in power is using this historical conflict for water and land as it fits to promote its own interest. The “Assab” – Addis Ababa road has to remain open. A railway project to connect Tigrai with Djibouti that pushed the Afar pastoralist to less resource combined with large commercial farms of sugar plantation has exasperated the crisis.

We are seeing a grab for land between Somali and Oromo ethnic groups too. All these conflicts have one thing in common. Take a land if you have gun and no one can stop you. The regime is only worried about those who threatened large commercial farms, foreign or regime owned and the vital road and rail link.

The diaspora groups of Afar and Issa day dream from distance cheering for their ethnic groups. They are living in a clan mentality. Exposure to education and life in the West has not changed it. Most of them do not want to see the big picture of Democratic and prosperous Ethiopia that benefits its more than 80 ethnic groups equitably. It is only me and my tribe mentality ! My tribe first, Ethiopia second mentality !!

Elders like Bitweded Ali Mirah are long gone. The late Ali Mirah who has a vision for One Ethiopia and a tolerant Islam is gone. The vision we have now in the Issa and Afar diaspora is a “Somali Vision” before Al Shabab. A clan mentality which is working hand in glove with ethnic/Kilil Politics, the law of the land.

It is indeed sad the poor people of Afar and Issa are dying as we speak while the diaspora foreign passport holders of Issa and the Afar community are wasting their valuable time in hate and tribal politics. What a tragedy.