Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Thousands flee Ethiopia clashes


Tens of thousands of people have reportedly fled their homes as a result of fighting between rival groups in a remote part of southern Ethiopia.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt says 300 people may have been killed - mostly in a major battle on 5 February.

People are moving away to safer areas following the clash between the Borana people and the Gheri, a Somali clan.

While the fighting has now stopped, the area is still tense and some reports estimate more than 100,000 displaced.

Ethiopia's Minister of State Responsible for Emergency and Disaster Planning Mitiku Kassa acknowledged the existence of the problem but said the figure of 100,000 was an exaggeration.

The fighting, which took place near the town of Moyale, was so severe that for a time the main road to the Kenyan border was closed.

Immediately after the peak of the clashes on 5 February, the Gheri people began moving away from the area in large numbers.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says armed conflicts, particularly over water, are not unusual in this part of southern Ethiopia.

They have been increasing in recent years because of boundary changes, and because of drought which has made control over wells and water points even more critical.

A long term observer of the area told the BBC it was tragic that something like this happens virtually every year, and is now considered almost normal.

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