Ethiopia highway blockade ends

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Protesters in Ethiopia’s north-eastern Afar region ended a blockade of the landlocked country’s main route to the sea imposed on Sunday to demonstrate against surging ethnic violence, police and organisers said.

Ethiopia has been gripped by ethnic violence since last year resulting in the displacement of almost three million people.

Critics of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed say his political reforms have allowed dormant ethnic rivalries to resurface in Africa’s second most populous nation.

The blockade of the highway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti followed deadly clashes between Afars and Issa Somalis, a minority in the area, which broke out in December. Locals say dozens were killed.

Afar elders said the attacks were an attempt to tear areas inhabited by Issas away from the region. An Afar rebel group said attacks were supported by Somalis from Djibouti and Somalia.

Protesters were demonstrating against violence and a government order for local militias to pull out from disputed areas and be replaced by federal soldiers.

“The region’s leadership, local elders held discussions resulting in a solution and the end of the blockade,” federal police spokesman Jeylan Abdi told reporters. A witness confirmed the measure.

Djibouti handles roughly 95% of all inbound trade for Ethiopia, a nation of 105 million and an economic power in East Africa.