Mr. Tola Bariso said about 65,000 students — at least half of whom fled to Oromia from Ethiopia’s neighboring Somali region — have been displaced, along with their families.

By Sora Halake (VOA) |

Conflict in Ethiopia’s vast Oromia region has disrupted formal education for tens of thousands of youngsters, authorities there say.

Violent attacks on mostly ethnic Oromo communities have forced 159 schools in five regions to close at least temporarily in the past two years, said the Oromia Educational Bureau’s head, Tola Bariso.

He said about 65,000 students — at least half of whom fled to Oromia from Ethiopia’s neighboring Somali region — have been displaced, along with their families. He did not say how many of those youths were enrolled in other schools.

Fear of violence is keeping some students out of school, and even for those who do attend it compromises the ability to learn, officials and local residents told VOA’s Horn of Africa service.

“I can count many neighbor children who are staying home in fear for their lives,” said Abdule Jima, a 27-year-old local government employee living in the eastern Oromia town of Chinaksen. There, 27 schools have closed, with the acting mayor estimating that 22,000 youngsters have missed classes for at least six months.

“What kind of generation are we going to have?” Jima asked. “You can imagine a kid growing up in a village where every day you hear shots and [see] people fleeing.”

In a joint report issued last week, Ethiopia’s government and the United Nations said “inter-communal violence” along the winding border between Oromia and eastern Somali state region has displaced more than one million people since 2012. Most have fled since last September.

Tola Bariso and other Oromia officials blame much of the violence on the Liyu police, a paramilitary force based in the country’s Somali region. As in the past, the Liyu police administration did not respond to repeated interview requests by VOA.

Sporadic attacks by the Liyu began at least five years ago, escalated in December 2016 and subsided before a renewed wave of attacks began in late May. Some officials and residents said the Liyu police are seeking territorial expansion and economic advantage on behalf of the Somali state government. Its president, Abdi Mohamud Omar, also known as Abdi Illey, started the paramilitary force in 2007 when he was the state’s security chief, according to OPride.com, a website run by citizen journalists in the Horn of Africa diaspora.

Continue reading this story at VOA
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