The permanent solution for long term Afar-Somali conflicts

Afar and Somalis have long been victims. From colonial era to medieval Ethiopian history, they have always remained targeted for subjugation and abuse. Their histories are mirror images of the other.

For colonial perspectives the both communities were incorporated into different neighbouring countries. For the Ethiopian perspectives, from as long as the history remembers to current time, they have always been treated as a transplanted part to rest of Ethiopia. Practically considered less Ethiopian than the others. For the sake of the future, I can’t mention details of the darkness in the past. 

The artificial hostility inherited from the darkness in the past is still persistent and people of the two regions are failing to negotiate and recognise each other even during the era of freedom. 

Somali and Afar regional states are now in a big challenges.The border conflicts are escalating.  Even though, it was historically a routine to see episodic events of conflict and disagreement in any communities in Ethiopia, but still communities lived together, but the current conflicts are bit different, it have a political spirit. 

The turning point of Afar-Somali conflicts was in 2014 .When TPLF brokered so called peace deal was reached. That resulted unconstitutional transfer of 3 towns to Afar region. Both Afar and Somalis have to know that this so called agreement had  bad intentions in it. The intention was to create endless war and to open a new page of hostility, that’s transforming communities’ violence into direct political war at both states levels. 

The leadership of both Afar and Somalis weren’t happy to sign that unconstitutional so called agreement at that time. They were only following the orders of Getachew Assefa, a controversial official in TPLF rule.

Abdi mahamoud omer (a.k.a Abdi elley),former president of Somali state, was accounting for this while addressing crowds of his supporters saying “for all that bad things we did, it was not because of our free will but we were following the orders of Getachew Assefa in the tip of the guns”.

The thinks get worsened thereafter.  The Local purely Somali people begin to resist the new Afar administration. They frequently took Afar region’s flag down and installed Somali flag in place. They explained there grievance and anger in their spoken words, their written banners and songs.
The Afar state in its part used its new authority to keep the order and peace as they said and prevent Afari flag from being down.

This turned out to  direct confrontation between Afari security agents and local Somali residents. This resulted  a large number of Somali residents to be victims the recurring confrontations including deaths, injuries, imprisonments and mass displacement. 

The Afar people and government believe that this towns Adaiytu, Udufo and Garba-isse were Settled by Afar people long ago,  like 50-100yrs or so. While affirming that the resident are purely Somali and not  belonging to them.

At a same time they also believe that this people should be removed from the area. Since the conflicts were recurring for longterm and the chance of peaceful co-existence is almost nil.  They  are pessimistic about the future of peaceful co-existence.

Even after complete transfer of administrative authority of this towns to Afari state , about 5 years ago, the Afar people still  complained that they  couldn’t  even travel peacefully without fear from Semerra, the capital city of the region, to awash and Addis Ababa.  Because the only road connecting the two was continuously in trouble.

From Somali sides the story is bit different. Firstly they claim that this people lived in the area as long as the history remembers. They born there, lived and made houses & properties. Displacement of all this community is unconstitutional legally and invisible practically.

Secondly the Somali side believe that the people in the three districts are purely Somali ethnics located within geographical continuity of Somali region territory.  The Somali government and people believe that by any means there is no way that these districts can be under Afari state administration.

Thirdly, the Somali side believe that any procedure or dicission on the fate of this people should be constitutional and based on the will of residents of 3 districts. As result the agreement of the two states of Afar & Somali regions in 2014 was unconstitutional and illegally decided on people’s fate without them self-involved.

The recent Somali region cabinet dicission to withdraw from 2014 agreement wasn’t a message to annex the 3 districts by force, but only response to the massacre that happened in that day and means to say that they are not accountable to the agreement any more.  As result a permanent solution would be sought for this problems.

The reality seems like this,  long ago  people in the locality were pastoralist in both Afar and and Somalis sides .After urbanisation and  construction of Ethio-Djibout road, which is constructed paralleling Afar-Somali people borders. The people started to  permanently settle around the main road. Each community Settled so  that, they can be as closser to the road as possible and use transportation services. 

The residence pattern in the area needs a special look, its such that, towns and villages are in line on main road, Like a  beadings on a rope of necklace. The towns of both Afar and Somalis are so mixed. For example If you are moving in this road and reach a Somali’s town, its unlikely that you can predict who’s belonged to next town. If the first town is inhabited by Afar, the next is by Somalis and so on.

The  two brotherly communities of Afar and Somalis had protracted and long term history of war and violence. They are also two of poorest states of Ethiopia. Historically both of them were tortured & systematically abused. The current turbulence however is of particularly important. It comes in time when there is great security fragility in the country. It  comes with a new political spirit and motivation which might gave birth to unthankful consequences. 

Unless huge attention and energy is spent and urgently solution is sought, the enire region and  country is on the verge of collapse to an endless civil war. The Ethiopian anti reform forces are hibernating.   If they are given an opportunity they will add a benzene in a fire which is difficult to extinguish. 

There are optimistic peace loving Afar and Somali individuals and  majority of Afar & Somali intellectuals are  crying for peace, while fearing the magnitude of the problem and possible catastrophe it may result. 

After discussing with the issue and possible options of solutions, I and my friend from Afar put possible permanent solution of the crisis to be like this:

The primary reason for this violence is the road & its contraband activities. Ethio-Djibouti road is one of busiest roads in the country and the only trachea where 110 millions Ethiopians are breathing in and out to Red sea and the outside world.

The road is very old, poorly maintained and by any means not enough to support the need of growing Ethiopian population. So we  strongly recommend the  federal government to implement alternative road construction straight passing  through Semarra to Addis Ababa. 

We understood that this people hold in  a believe that this road is a God given welth and means of their survival. This is the basics of the recurrent conflicts, so by creating alternative road inside Afar region we will reduce the tension and terminate the hostility. 

Because frequent clashes and conflicts in the area, it is nowadays becoming increasingly common practice for angry people to go blocking the road until their demands are met. No better mind, its also common practice for our prime minister to send national defence forces into the area so that they will gun down local residents. For how long will our national army, whom are supposed to defend our nation, keep defending an old road??.

This is really affecting our national economy, oil price and other commodities.  If you want to know that please ask  a taxi driver in Addis Ababa.


By building peace and development together, this project will benefit local people, support growing need of Ethiopians & become permanent and long lasting solution to Afar-Somali conflicts. 

2-    We also recognised that our brothers in Afar region are isolated especially from the east. They’re totally disconnected from cities like Harar,Dire Dawa andJigjiga.

Therefore we strongly recommend to the federal government to build asphalt road connecting Dire Dawa directly to Semarra only about 200km. This will also help social integration and enhance people to people relationships. 
It will also help people on both sides who are currently in trouble of moving from Harar, Dire Dawa etc to Semarra  and the reverse. 
3-   Our brothers in Adaiytu, Udufo, and garba-Isse should be asked to decide their own fate. 
4-  Finally the religious leaders, clan leaders and intellectuals from both sides should come together for dua and forgiveness, they should visit every place wherever possible that people were killed. They should slaughter camels and cow to reconcile  the broken hearts of the brothers.
5- Committee from both sides containing religious leaders, traditional leaders and government bodies will established to supervise peace process. Later on Any individual or group seemed to be violating peace deal will be handled by this committee.  
6-   We propose that this initiative to be initially kicked off from Somali region sides. 

This is an agreement we made at an individual level. We are also optimistic that this will be an agreement principle of both at communities and state level. We  strongly recommend politicians of both sides to read this article. We believe that every single person in the two brotherly communities is a peace ambassador and has a responsibility and role to play. 

We are also optimistic and hold a big hope that the federal government will take a bigger responsibility. Carrying out the above mentioned developmental issues for the betterment of its own people
Finally we have strong hope that the two brotherly societies will coexist peacefully and live together 
By building peace and development together, finally peace will prevail 
Ahmed abdulahi (MD)