With 208 people killed and over 100 children kidnapped, Ethiopia’s tragedy highlights the need to urgently tackle insecurity across Africa


Today, Ethiopia mourns the death of over 200 citizens killed and over 100 children kidnapped in the cross-border attack from South Sudan last Friday. According to reports from the governments communication department, 75 people are wounded, the death toll continue to increase, and 2000 livestock were stolen from what has been deemed an infiltration of armed militants of South Sudan’s Murle tribe.

The attack took place within some districts in the Gambela region in Ethiopia’s west. The region which is spread across the bother of Ethiopia and South Sudan is home to close to 300,000 fleeing refugees from South Sudan. Though the region is quite familiar with these sort of attacks – cattle raids, it has never experienced one of this magnitude, and with this much havoc.

Cross-border cattle raids are not uncommon in African countries like Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan, where livestock are an indicator of wealth and social class. These raids or ‘pastoral wars’ have been ongoing for decades, even centuries, getting uglier and deadlier overtime as thousands of men, women, and children are killed and abducted.

Five years into a highly controversial independence, the nation of South Sudan still battles the … of decade long wars, poverty, famine, severe underdevelopment, and insecurity, with the Dinka, the Murle, and the Nuer ethnic groups, constantly locked in a war for some years now. Now these seemingly small scale conflicts have escalated to the point where it poses a threat to national security and stability not just for South Sudan, but for neighbouring Ethiopia as well.

As Ethiopia mourns, the rest of Africa mourns as well, for we are reminded of the constant war raging amongst us. Nigeria currently faces a similar problem with Fulani herdsmen, who have wrecked enough havoc to be acknowledged by the global community as one of deadliest terror groups in the world. Just like the pastoral wars in South Sudan, Fulani communities and farming communities in Nigeria have for long been engaged in communal conflicts over land and resources, that have escalated in recent times to include attacks, kidnappings and killings.

Although Getachew Reda, Ethiopia’s Minister of Information has said that about 60 of the attackers have been killed by the Ethiopian forces  and that more of them would be pursued across the border into South Sudan, it does little or nothing for both countries. Killing all the assailants of Friday’s attack will not bring back the dead, nor abducted children, neither will it put an end to the long raging war amongst these ethnic groups. If anything, it might stir up some form of revenge attack, which is quite typical of the cattle raiders.

How does the government(s) put an end to these wars once and for all? So far, all attempts to an end to inter tribal cattle violence in South Sudan have failed, and peace remains elusive. The same can be said of other pastoral community clashes within other African states. No concrete steps are taken until things get way out of hand. Hence, as Ethiopia mourns, the rest of Africa, particularly terror laden countries, need to return to the drawing board and devise a permanent solution to these tribal conflicts or risk the loss of many more lives across the continent.

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