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Ethiopia’s special police seek to build trust after rights abuse claims

July 17, 2013

Tainted by allegations of violence, Liyu police look to strengthen ties in Somali region by boosting development and investment.

On the newly paved main road that runs through eastern Ethiopia’s arid Somali region lie several reminders of the violence the area has endured. Several burnt-out Russian tanks litter the barren terrain, evidence of the 1977-78 Ethiopia-Somalia war.

Further along the highway, a scorched bus symbolises an ongoing conflict destabilising the region. Fighting between the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), which wants self-determination for the region, and the Ethiopian military since 1984 has left a deep scar on the civilian population.

But at a tea shop in a village close to where the locals claim the ONLF had one of its first headquarters, Mohammed, 71, a village elder, says the Liyu police, an Ethiopian regional state security force, has increased safety in the area and improved their lives. “Before, the rebels used to terrorise us every day, always accusing us of supporting the government. Since the Liyu has come, the rebels never bother us any more – we can live our lives normally again, without fear.”

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