In order to discuss ideas for overhauling the Liyu Police Force, President Mustafa Omar Cagjar of Ethiopia’s Somali regional administration recently called a conference with force members. Cagjar stated during the conference that the Liyu Police Force, which was established to combat rebel troops in the Somali region, will not be abolished or disbanded. The force’s salaries, ranks, and security will not change.
The Liyu Police Force will be rebranded as an official police agency, military actions at the borders will end, and new uniforms will be distributed as part of the planned reforms. Some Liyu Police officers supported the restructuring, pointing out that many of their prior responsibilities had been inadequate and that they were now concentrating on regional security activities.
While the war between the government and the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) was growing, Ethiopian authorities established the Liyu (Amharic for “special”) Police Force. Under the direction of the force’s then-regional security chief Abdi Mohammed Omar, also known as “Abdi Illey,” by 2008 it had become a key counterinsurgency outfit. In 2010, Omar was elected president of the Somali Regional State, and the Liyu Police were under his command until his arrest in August 2018.
All regional special forces will be incorporated into the national army, federal police, or regional police forces by the Ethiopian government, which could be interpreted as a move to curtail regional autonomy. The ten regions of Ethiopia today vary in their degree of independence, from having their own armies to speaking their own languages.
The Ethiopian government has declared its plans to “build one strong and centralized army” and that it has started taking “practical steps” to include local special forces into various security formations.