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Seasonal migration occurred in the past without causing excessive conflict between different pastoralist groups. But tension and competition with other ethnic groups, mainly the Digodi, have increased since new regional state boundaries were drawn on the Boran’s traditional grazing lands, with the establishment of Oromiya and Somali states in the 1990s (see introducing the testimonies).

Duba says they are no longer able to travel from the lowlands to the ‘cold area’ – the higher land – in the dry season: “The route that we took to travel between these places has been given to the Somalis.”

And as drought has continued and water and pasture have become scarcer, competition for resources has become even fiercer. As Chuqulisa says, “It is during acute droughts that we enter into conflict with other clans.”

Ibrahim and Gurracha outline the recent history of the conflict between the two groups. Gurracha says that the Digodi have armed militias whereas the Boran only have sticks, and mentions what he sees as government bias in favour of the Digodi.

According to Huqa inter-clan conflict claims many lives every year, but Iyya says there have been no clashes in the last three years. Nevertheless, he emphasises that even when relations are not actually violent, they are “unpleasant”; lack of actual confrontation “does not mean we are in a state of peace”.

Ibrahim says they’ve made many representations to the government to be allowed more land but all their requests have been ignored. He comments: “There is an Oromo saying, ‘He who throws a stone in a dark cannot see where it falls’. We forwarded our questions, [but] could not find their whereabouts.”

Loko links the community’s preference for male children to the increased incidence of conflict, explaining that they see them as potential defenders of their property and fighters against their enemies.


Conflict is a key theme of the Desert voices: Ethiopia oral testimony project.


Arima: punishment from God

Chuqulisa: love is lacking

Diramo: tied to our cattle

Duba: solutions to problems

Gurracha: conflict devastated it

Huqa: pleasure from family

Ibrahim: the crazy heat

Iyya: conserving the forest

Loko: farming from necessity

Rufo: goodbye to farmland

Key themes

Introduction to the project




Food security




Social institutions

Government assistance