By Addis Getachew Tadesse
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
The leaders of eastern Ethiopia's Oromia and Somali regional states are working jointly to defuse the ongoing conflict in the neighboring border areas of the two regions, a government minister said Friday.
"The defense forces, federal police and the leadership of the two regions are working together towards the same purpose," Communication Affairs Office Minister Dr. Negeri Lencho told a news conference in capital Addis Ababa.
This is the first news conference given by the government after Monday's clashes over border disputes between Somali and Oromo nationals left at least 18 dead in Aweday district of eastern zone of the Oromia regional state.
The Oromia State government claims that the clashes followed public anger caused by the torturing to death of two Oromo district officials by Somali security forces on Sunday – an allegation the Somali state government has denied.
Dr. Negeri said that defense forces and federal police members as well as the leadership and security forces of the regions had been deployed to the region to control the situation.
Human rights agents are also monitoring the situation to prevent human rights violations, he said, expressing deep sorrow of the government over loss of lives due to the clashes.
Eyewitnesses in the eastern city of Harar told Anadolu Agency that the city had been engulfed by Oromo nationals evicted from Somali-administered places such as Jijjiga, the capital of the Somali regional state.
Rival ethnic Somali and Oromo armed groups have been engaged in clashes in the bordering areas for months, but the situation has escalated this week, and turned violent with both sides blaming each other for the deadly confrontation.