Ethiopia's Communication Minister Dr. Negeri Lencho - photo: Getty Images
ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 19 (Xinhua) -- More than 70,000 ethnic Oromos have been displaced from Ethiopia's Somali regional state after a week of clashes with ethinic Somalis that left scores dead. A smaller number of ethnic Somalis numbering around 300 have also been displaced from Oromia regional state. Speaking exclusively to Xinhua on Tuesday, Negeri Lencho, Minister of Ethiopia Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) says the Ethiopian government has formed a national taskforce to help with the needs of the displaced people. He further said despite isolated clashes on Monday on the border between Oromia and Somali regional states, the area is generally calming down. "The border areas between the two regional states is being currently manned by the Ethiopian army to prevent a repeat of the last week's deadly clashes," said Lencho adding that the national taskforce is helping those displaced people that have indicated a desire to return back to their original residences. Ethiopia's biggest regional states Oromia and Somali have been locked in a dispute over the delineation of their common boundary for almost two decades. A referendum in October 2004 was supposed to demarcate the boundary between the two regional states, but its implementation has been stalled ever since with both sides accusing each other of non-compliance with the referendum results. Over the past week, heavy clashes along the Oromia-Somali boundary spilled into ethnic violence which has left scores of people dead and tens of thousands displaced. As part of the efforts to calm the situation, the Ethiopian federal government announced on Saturday roads that cross both regional states will be guarded by the federal police and security forces of both regional states will withdraw from border locations. In addition, the statement from the federal government said it will engage in disarmament of weapons held by civilians in the area of the conflict.