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Afars used as attack intermediaries

Afars used as attack intermediaries
Indian Ocean Newsletter, No.1253

Asmara backed Ugugumo rebels waged an attack on Ethiopia. A little later Ethiopia- backed RSADO rebels attacked an Eritrean military post.

Ugugumo (“revolution” in the Afar language) commando unit better as Afar Revolutionary Democratic Union Front (Arduf) seized 30 camels loaded with sacks of salt, their owners and the tax collector (and his takings) at Saba in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Some members of the Ethiopian army headed by a captain and supported by policemen from the Afar region went after them. The captain and the three soldiers are believed to have been killed by the rebels whereas the civilians were freed.

This Afar rebel group, one of whose leaders is known as Araboo but which has a tradition of consensual leadership, has been waging sporadic actions against the Ethiopian army. It particularly brought attention to itself when it took a group of European tourists hostage on 1 March 2007. Ugugumo made contact with Eritrea, which was hostile to begin with but has given it a limited amount of backing for the last two years. But it has kept an autonomous base in Ethiopia where it has gained new recruits and some disillusioned members of the Arduf faction who had defected to the Ethiopian government. Indeed, a few years ago one of the Arduf spokesmen, Mohamoda Gaas, became deputy minister for tourism and one of his military chiefs, Salah Ali Hodale had created a legal political party. But neither has managed to obtain any real concessions from the Ethiopian government and their political factions were sidelined among the Afar.

The Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) in its turn attacked military premises in Eritrea, near Iddi in the center of the Dankalia region. The group claimed to have killed one security official and six Eritrean agents, as well as taking their weapons. In mid-November, the RSADO is alleged to have previously attacked a military barracks at Afambo, 50 km inside the Eritrean border. The Eritrean army is alleged to have then combed through the whole region. RSADO draws its recruits from among the Eritrean Afar who have taken refuge in Ethiopia. The latter are some 40,000 in number and have fled from the war, repression and Eritrean military service.

The RSADO is aided and trained by the Ethiopian government. This group does not have any real autonomy, being under the close military surveillance of Ethiopian officers. It claims to fight for Eritrean Afars to have the right for self determination, but is a member of the coalition of 13 Eritrean opposition movements fighting to overthrow Issayas Afeworki and his regime, with the backing of Ethiopia.

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