Clashes, looting in eastern Ethiopia: residents

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Ethiopian Federal Police officers detain a woman suspected to be carrying explosives during the welcoming ceremony of Jawar Mohammed, US-based Oromo activist and leader of the Oromo Protests, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on August 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)
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Ethiopian Federal Police officers detain a woman suspected to be carrying explosives during the welcoming ceremony of Jawar Mohammed, US-based Oromo activist and leader of the Oromo Protests, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on August 5, 2018. (REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri)
Updated 05 August 2018
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Clashes, looting in eastern Ethiopia: residents

  • Witnesses said mobs were emptying bank vaults and torching churches in the volatile Somali region of eastern Ethiopia
  • Ethiopia’s defense ministry on Saturday issued a statement saying it would take “necessary measures” to restore order

ADDIS ABABA: Residents in the volatile Somali region of eastern Ethiopia on Sunday reported riots, looting and ethnic attacks, as the US embassy in Addis Ababa advised its citizens to avoid the region.
“Everybody is inside his home. Nobody is leaving,” said a resident of the regional capital Jigjiga who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“So many of my neighbors... have lost their hotels, their shops their homes, everything. Each and every house has lost everything,” added the resident, who said he was in danger because of his Amhara ethnicity.
It was unclear what triggered the unrest which began on Saturday but photos circulating on social media showed Ethiopian military vehicles deployed in Jigjiga.
A second resident who belongs to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, said a Somali family was sheltering him from the feared Liyu regional police force, which rights groups have repeatedly accused of abuses.
He added that mobs were emptying bank vaults and torching churches in the majority Muslim region.
The US embassy in Addis Ababa said Saturday the Ethiopian military had “seized control of key highways, government buildings, and the airport in Jijiga.”
“Media continue to report sporadic on-going unrest in various parts of Ethiopia’s Somali region. While the unrest appears to be centered around Jijiga, there are reports of incidents of violence in Dire Dawa and other areas of the Somali region,” it added on Sunday in another travel warning.
“US Embassy personnel are avoiding the region until the situation returns to normal and we encourage Americans to do the same,” it said.
Ethiopia’s defense ministry on Saturday issued a statement saying it would take “necessary measures” to restore order in the region.
“The ministry will not sit by and watch,” it said in a statement carried by the state-affiliated Fana media outlet.
Ethiopia is divided between ethnically demarcated federal regions that are intended to give different ethnicities a degree of self-rule but have been criticized for exacerbating ethnic tensions.
Somali is Ethiopia’s second-largest region and one of its most unstable.
Around 1.1 million people fled their homes last year when ethnic fighting broke out along its border with neighboring Oromia region.
Last month, Human Rights Watch accused the regional government of running a secret prison where it tortured, raped and starved suspected members of a separatist group.


Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

Updated 21 min 34 sec ago
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Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

  • Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade
  • Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership

BELGRADE, Serbia: Vladimir Putin received a hero’s welcome in ally Serbia on Thursday as the Russian president attempted to maintain political and economic influence in the Balkans, which is increasingly looking Westward.
Putin’s presidential plane was escorted over Serbian airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets he recently donated to Serbia as he arrived for the one-day visit. Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has pledged to stay out of NATO.
Putin has recently stepped up efforts to restore Moscow’s influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Putin and his host, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, praised the relationship between the two countries. Putin handed a top Russian honor to Vucic, who gave a puppy of a Serb dog breed to the Russian president.
Vucic thanked Russia for its support for Serbia’s claim over Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008, and added that “however small,” Serbia has been a “reliable partner” to Russia.
Several bilateral agreements were signed, including on the supply of Russian gas and weapons to Serbia.
On the gas, Putin said Russian companies are ready to invest about $1.4 billion into a stretch of a pipeline that would go from Turkey via EU-member Bulgaria to Serbia and then on to Hungary, “but in the end, everything will depend on other countries, including the European Union.”
Putin’s visit come as thousands have been holding weekly demonstrations against Vucic because of what they see as his autocratic rule.
Tens of thousands of Vucic’s right-wing party supporters were bused into the capital on Thursday to gather in front of the St. Sava Orthodox church, which the two presidents visited. They were chanting slogans including “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the European Union!“
Vucic’s critics say the gathering was staged to suggest that the Serbian leader has many more supporters than opponents, who have been marching the same route since December to demand free elections and media.
Several liberal Serbian rights groups issued a statement on Thursday protesting “glorification of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.”
It said that Putin’s visit “indicates that the Serbian rulers are ready to sacrifice human rights and better living standards of citizens because of their servile attitude toward Putin’s regime.”
Russia’s interest in Serbia relates to its strategic position between East and West. Of Serbia’s eight neighbors, five are NATO members and two more are seeking membership; and four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession. Serbia remains Moscow’s only ally in the region.
Unlike NATO, Putin formally does not oppose Serbia’s EU path and analysts believe that this is because he wants a staunch ally — or perhaps a Trojan horse — within the 28-nation bloc.
Putin’s popularity in Serbia is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence. In contrast, most Western countries have recognized Kosovo’s statehood.