Violence is tearing apart two of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic communities

Violence is tearing apart two of Ethiopia’s largest ethnic communities

By Abdi Latif

Dozens of people were killed in Ethiopia in clashes between two of the countries largest ethnic communities—pointing to the increasing violence and internal problems facing the Horn of Africa nation.

Officials confirmed that at least 61 people were killed between Thursday (Dec. 14) and Sunday (Dec. 17), heightening the tension between the Oromia and Somali regions. After Somalis killed 29 Oromos, the latter retaliated in a revenge attack and killed 32 Somalis.

The Oromia government spokesman Adisu Arega said in a Facebook post (in Amharic) that the clashes took place in the region’s Hawi Gudina and Daro Lebu districts. The attacks come just a week after 16 people were killed in Oromia, leading to protests and the blockage of social media sites.

The fresh clashes constitute a new political challenge for Ethiopia and have triggered a humanitarian crisis that has left tens of thousands of people displaced. The problem is also compounded by the fact that the Oromos and Somalis constitute over 40% of the country’s population, and live in the two largest regions by area size. Given the long border that the two share, the nasty spate of violence also highlights the tensions of ethnic federalism and how the two communities have competed for resources and land for decades.

But beyond the ethnic features, the recent clashes showcase the governance problems facing the ruling EPRDF party, and its promise to create a representative state that caters for all. The federal government, dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, was rocked by a wave of protests in 2015 and 2016 by the Oromo and Amhara groups who accused it of trying to grab their land and undermine the culture.

The demonstrations led to the killing of over 1,000 people destabilizing the country and threatening the ethno-nationalist, multicultural federation. Politicians dominating regional politics have also been duplicitous, turning a blind eye to injustices carried out by militias like the Liyu police, a paramilitary force that has been accused by rights groups of killing villagers.

The violence in Oromia is problematic for Ethiopia, a regional heavyweight that continues to market its impressive economic growth over the last two decades. If things don’t change in the near future, observers say Africa’s second most populous nation risks “unraveling” to the detriment of both the country and the region.


  1. It should not be our business to engage ourselves in the romance of violence as our main daily chores. The people of our old country had seen enough of violence and these days many in several communities are wishing they are there no more. Senseless and deadly violence has driven them out of places they have known since birth. Proud family men/women are being chased out their homes and forced to beg. Worse yet they had watched their loved ones butchered by individuals they had lived with in harmony as neighbors for decades even centuries. But those good neighbors have turned savages worse than Atila The Hun right in front of their eyes in disbelief. Those of you who have been pushers and pimps of hatred among good neighbors I say ‘congratulations but shame on you’. That includes The Sebhat Nega hordes and other bigots among us. I congratulate you because you got what you wanted and have been craving all along which is to see the people of the old country go at each other throats along ethnic lines. You wanted to see that glorious country go up in flames and you are finding success in small villages both in Oromia and Somalia. But shame on you and you will be held accountable when you face The Almighty Our Creator on the Judgment Day!!! Shame on you!!! Shame, shame, shame on you!!!! I wish you were not even born!!! Shame on you!!!! You have made mothers wail in grief!!! You have made fathers go insane for losing their only child!!! Shame on you!!!! Woe, woe, woe!!!! Woe to the victims and their loved ones!!!! Woe! Woe!!! Woe!!!!!