Oromo–Somali clashes

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Oromo–Somali clashes
Date December 2016 – present
(1 year, 10 months, 1 week and 4 days)
Location Oromia Region, Somali Region
Oromo militia Somali militia
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
200+ killed in total[1][2]

The Oromo–Somali clashes began in December 2016 following territorial disputes between Oromo and Somali communities in Ethiopia. Hundreds of people were killed.


Ethiopia has a federal political arrangement structured along ethno-linguistic lines. The Oromia Region is the largest and most populous state in the country and constitutes primarily those of the Oromo ethnic group, the largest ethnic group in the country, while the Somali Region, the second largest state by area in the country, primarily constitutes those of the Somali ethnic group.

Somalis are mostly pastoralists and Oromos tend to be farmers, as well as pastoralists. It has been difficult to demarcate clear borders between the states as pastoral communities tend to cross borders in search for pasture for their animals. This has led to competition, such as for wells and grazing land, over the years, with tens of thousands of people being displaced in some conflicts.

In 2004, a referendum to decide on the fate of more than 420 kebeles, the country's smallest administrative unit, gave 80% of them to Oromia, leading to Somali minorities fleeing those areas.[3]

Course of the conflict

The current exacerbation of the conflict is speculated to be caused from competition arisen from a prolonged drought.[4] From December 2016 at the border of the Oromia and Somali regions, the Oromia and Somali communities territorial tension boiled, notably near the town of Deka, leaving at least 30 people dead and more than 50,000 displaced. The Oromo claim the area is their ancestral land and the Somali families had been brought in from Ethiopian Somali regional. The situation escalated when the two communities’ clansmen started revenge attacks.[5] The clashes involved heavily armed men on both sides in locations all along the border. Schools were looted and civil servants shot in their offices. Residents on the Oromo side also reported widespread rapes. The worst of the violence took place in the area around Negele Borana. More than 100 people died and thousands were displaced in February and March in the Negele area alone. Oromo activists have claimed much higher numbers.[6]

On 20 April 2017 the Oromia and Somali states of Ethiopia have signed an agreement to peacefully solve disputes.[7] Though in September 2017, clashes erupted killing hundreds of the Oromo ethnicity and some on Somali side.[8][3]

The regional special police of both states, called the Liyu in the Somali region who attack Oromos and the Liyu Hail of Oromia state, have been accused of being behind many of the atrocities.[4]


Displaced people

Up to 400,000 have been displaced by the fighting as of November 2017.[4]


  1. ^ "At Least 32 Killed in Ethiopia's Oromia, Somali Regions". kichuu.com. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  2. ^ Schemm, Paul (21 October 2017). "'They started to burn our houses': Ethnic strife in Ethiopia threatens a key U.S. ally". Retrieved 21 October 2017 – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  3. ^ a b "What is behind clashes in Ethiopia's Oromia and Somali regions?". bbcnews.com. 18 September 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c "Ethnic violence displaces hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians". irinnews.com. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Relative calm returns after deadly clash between Oromo and Somali communities in Ethiopia".
  6. ^ Gardner, Tom (16 May 2017). "Uneasy peace and simmering conflict: the Ethiopian town where three flags fly" – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ "Oromia, Somali states agree to peacefully solve border dispute". 21 April 2017.
  8. ^ "'Hundreds' dead in Ethiopia ethnic clashes » Capital News". 26 September 2017.
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