I'm confused on the possible reason for the attack in July 2021 (allegedly) carried out by Afar forces in Garbaiisa, a town in the neighboring region of Somali (not to be confused with the independent country Somalia, which is further east).

According to Wikipedia, the background of the conflict is that 3 villages were given/transferred in 2014 (by the Ethiopian government) from Somali to Afar. There have apparently been some sporadic violence in the meantime since then, but Afar seems to have been the winner of this dispute, as far as those 3 villages are concerned. So, why did they (allegedly) attack a town in Somali thereafter? Was it payback for previous violence attributed to the Somalis? Or is Afar claiming more territory in Somali besides those 3 villages?

1 Answer 1


It appears that, in the same way some Eastern European countries are comprised of disparate ethnic groups, there's multiple ethnic groups in the contested area of Somalia. One of the points of contention is over water (a Kebele is something akin to a state within Somalia)

The area around the Afar-Somali Regions border experiences frequent violent conflict due to long-running disputes over contested territory. Conflict is centered around three Kebeles inhabited by ethnic Somalis from the Issa Clan. These three Kebeles are located in Afar’s Zones 1 and 3 and Somali’s Sitti Zone. The areas include Adaytu Kebele of Mille Woreda, Undufo Kebele in Gewane Woreda, and Gedamaytu Kebele in Amibara Woreda.

Ethnic Somalis who inhabit the contested territory want to join the neighboring Somali regional state in Ethiopia, an action that the Afar regional authorities strongly oppose. The disputed areas have important resources, including the Awash river and the highway and railway between Addis Ababa and Djibouti. Violent conflict over these resources has increased since 2018, with major clashes occurring in the context of heightened political tensions during the run-up toward the national elections in 2021.

The current conflict has been over the allocation of polling places in the 2021 elections. Originally the Somalis were favored by the new polling places, but Afar objected. The new polling places were set to be canceled, but the Somalis running the Kebele stated they needed the new polling places to participate, which is what sparked the current violence.

Current fighting between the two regional states was reignited after the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) listed 30 polling stations in these three areas under the Somali regional state. When the Afar regional state disputed this decision, NEBE decided to cancel the disputed 30 polling stations and instead advised residents in the contested areas to register and vote in neighboring Kebeles (NEBE, 24 March 2021). The Somali regional government rejected NEBE’s decision and warned of the “difficulties of participating in the upcoming election” if these polling stations remain closed.

This is threatening the stability of the main government

Yet the violence has intensified just as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government is trying to assert control over Tigray - underscoring how the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner is struggling to keep the country together. The election is regarded as a litmus test for the country’s fragile unity, challenged by many newly resurgent regional and ethnically based parties.

  • "Eastern European" did you mean African?
    – Hulk
    Sep 7, 2021 at 14:36
  • 2
    @Hulk No, I meant Eastern European (like Yugoslavia). Somalia has several disparate ethnic groups just like those countries.
    – Machavity
    Sep 7, 2021 at 14:47
  • Ah ok - the Balkan was not the first thing that came to my mind when reading "Eastern Europe", so I didn't get the analogy. Maybe due to being too close to that region, geographically speaking ;-)
    – Hulk
    Sep 7, 2021 at 15:16
  • There is something that I don't get. Why were those villages transferred to the Afar region in the first place.
    – FluidCode
    Sep 8, 2021 at 12:56

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