Oromia–Somali clashes

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Oromia-Somali clashes
Part of Conflicts in the Horn of Africa
DateDecember 2016–present
Border between Oromia Region and Somali Region
Result Abdi Illey arrested[1]
Oromia Region Oromia Somali Region Somali Regions
Tigray Region Tigray
Ethiopia Ethiopia
Commanders and leaders
Lemma Megersa Abdi Illey (POW)
Gebre Dilla [2]
Hailemariam Desalegn
7,000 29,000
Casualties and losses
200+ killed in total[3][4]

The Oromia–Somali clashes began in December 2016 following territorial disputes between Oromia region and Somali region's Government in Ethiopia.[5] Hundreds of people were killed and more than 1.5 million people fled their homes.[6][7]


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 primarily consists of those in the Oromo ethnic group, the largest ethnic group in the country. Meanwhile, the Somali Region is the second largest state by area in the country and primarily consists of those in the Somali ethnic group.[citation needed]

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 over the years, such as for wells and grazing land, with tens of thousands of people being displaced in some conflicts.[citation needed]

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.[8]

Course of the conflict[edit]


The current exacerbation of the conflict is speculated to be caused from competition arisen from a prolonged drought.[9] 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 that the area is their ancestral land and that the Somali families had been brought in from Ethiopian Somali regional. The situation escalated when the two communities’ clansmen started revenge attacks.[10] The clashes involved heavily armed men on both sides in locations all along the border. Schools were looted and civil servants were 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.[11]


On 20 April 2017 the Oromia and Somali states of Ethiopia have signed an agreement to peacefully solve disputes.[12] Though in September 2017, clashes erupted killing hundreds of the Oromo ethnicity and some on Somali side.[8][13]

The regional special police of both states, called the Liyu in the Somali region and the Liyu Hail of Oromia state, have been accused of being behind many of the atrocities.[9][14]

On 15 December 2017, over 600 Somali civilians were killed by the Oromo militia. To this day, no Oromo has been held accountability for this massacre[15]


In May 2018, four people were killed and 200 houses burned in clashes.[16]

In July 2018, Oromo militias killed 50 Somalis.[17]

In September 2018, 58 people were killed in ethnic clashes. Following the clashes on weekend of 15–16 September protests against ethnic clashes begun in Addis Ababa.[7]

In December 2018, 21 people were killed and 61 people were wounded in ethnic clashes, heavy artillery was used. Five thousand civilians fled to Kenya.[18]




Displaced people[edit]

Up to 400,000 were displaced by the fighting as of November 2017.[9] And a total of 1.2 million people were reported to be displaced in total by the end of the conflict.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ethiopia police arrest ex-Somali region president Abdi Illey, retrieved 27 August 2018
  2. ^ Ethiopia: Col. Gebregziabher Alemseged “Gen. Gebre” arrested as search continues on corruption suspects, 15 November 2018
  3. ^ "At Least 32 Killed in Ethiopia's Oromia, Somali Regions". kichuu.com. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  4. ^ Schemm, Paul (21 October 2017). "'They started to burn our houses': Ethnic strife in Ethiopia threatens a key U.S. ally". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
  5. ^ "At Least 32 Killed in Ethiopia's Oromia, Somali Regions". kichuu.com. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Ethiopia: Oromia – Somali Conflict-Induced Displacement – Situation Report No. 4 (20 June 2018) – Ethiopia | ReliefWeb".
  7. ^ a b "Ethiopia: Investigate police conduct after deaths of five people protesting ethnic clashes". www.amnesty.org. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  8. ^ a b "What is behind clashes in Ethiopia's Oromia and Somali regions?". BBC News. 18 September 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  9. ^ a b c "Ethnic violence displaces hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians". irinnews.com. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 25 November 2017.
  10. ^ "Relative calm returns after deadly clash between Oromo and Somali communities in Ethiopia".
  11. ^ Gardner, Tom (16 May 2017). "Uneasy peace and simmering conflict: the Ethiopian town where three flags fly". The Guardian.
  12. ^ "Oromia, Somali states agree to peacefully solve border dispute". 21 April 2017.
  13. ^ "'Hundreds' dead in Ethiopia ethnic clashes " Capital News". 26 September 2017.
  14. ^ Shaban, Abdur Rahman Alfa (13 August 2018). "Ethiopia's Liyu police blamed for deadly attacks in Oromia region". Africa News. Archived from the original on 13 August 2018.
  15. ^ "Degaanka Harar (Hararghe): Taariikhda Soomaalida iyo Oromada & xasuuqa 2017 ee Hawadaay iyo Balbaleyti". Caasimada Online. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  16. ^ "Four People killed, Over 200 Houses Torched in Renewed Somali-Oromo Clashes – Halbeeg News".
  17. ^ "Oromo militias killed 50 Somalis; displaced hundreds as tit for tat violence spiraled out of control in Moyale - OPride.com".
  18. ^ Reuters Staff (15 December 2018). "Ethnic violence in southern Ethiopia kills 21, wounds 61 - state news". Reuters. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  19. ^ "Displaced in Ethiopia: "I have nothing left"". NRC. Retrieved 19 July 2019.