Preventing Armed Conflict On The Ethiopia-Somalia Border

Preventing Armed Conflict On The Ethiopia-Somalia Border

Year(s): 2007.

Location: Ethiopia/Somalia International Border.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

Type of Conflict: Horizontal (non-state) Intrastate Conflict, Risk of an Interstate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Local action, the mediation of a peace agreement, and stabilising borders.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The UN and the governments of Portugal, USA, and USSR.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The Government of Puntland ended the pervasive armed conflict on the Ethiopia/Somalia border, minimising the risk of an interstate conflict in future.

Description of CaseĀ 

Adadda is an area of prime grazing land that straddles the border of Ethiopia and the Somali Federal Republic of Puntland that has historically been shared between local clans. During the dry months between January and April, when both pasture and water become scarce, low-intensity conflicts between rival groups of pastoralists are common. State collapse, the widespread conflicts that continue to affect the region, and increasing environmental degradation served to hamstring traditional methods of mediation and resolution while also exacerbating the intensity of these conflicts. Efforts to resolve particularly substantial conflicts in 1985, 1997, and 2001 failed due to these factors, and fighting over scarce resources in Adadda during the dry season continued.[1] The significance of these conflicts was compounded by the cross-border nature of the fighting, with clan militias engaging each other over an internationally recognised border. Thus, the fighting between armed pastoralist groups in Adadda ran the risk of sparking a major confrontation between Ethiopia and Somalia in addition to representing a pervasive conflict that defied resolution for decades.

In 2007, the construction of wells in a prohibited area sparked another confrontation. The rival groups raised their militia on either side of the Ethiopia-Somalia border and began fighting each other. Initial efforts to stop the conflict were led by local traditional and religious leaders. In contrast to previous flare-ups of fighting where state structures were absent for all intents and purposes, these interventions were supported by the administrations of Ethiopia, Puntland, and Somalia. The fighting between the pastoralist groups was ended immediately when 65 troops of the Puntland armed forces were deployed in an interpositionary location (essentially on the border with Ethiopia) between the militias.[2] The cessation of hostilities was followed by the creation of a mediation committee comprising traditional and religious leaders, ministers of the Puntland administration, as well as representatives of the belligerent parties. The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, which was reliant on support from Ethiopia at this time, put considerable pressure on the leadership of Puntland to resolve the conflict quickly. After several rounds of talks, the parties came to an accord and signed the Burtinle Peace Agreement on 8 May 2007.[3] The talks established Puntland as the guarantor of peace in the area, provided for reparations, and created a buffer zone between the rival groups to prevent a conflict relapse. Implementation was overseen by a joint committee.

[1] Johnson, ed. The Puntland Experience. pp.58-9

[2] Ibid. pp.59-60

[3] Burtinle Peace Agreement, 2007. Available at: (Accessed 1/11/2021)