Ending the armed conflict in Ethiopia (Somali Region)


The long-running armed conflict in the Somali Region of Ethiopia was ended by a peace agreement mediated with support from Conciliation Resources.

Ogaden is a historical name of the contemporary Ethiopian federal state of the Somali Region. Colonised by the Ethiopian Empire in the nineteenth century but with a predominantly Somali population, the region served as a buffer between Addis Ababa and the encroachments of European powers in the Horn of Africa for decades.1 In the aftermath of the Second World War, Ogaden was formally handed over to the re-established Ethiopian state after its liberation from Italian rule by the British. The emergence of a unified and independent Somalia in 1960 inspired armed resistance to Ethiopian rule in Ogaden, and in 1977 this movement took full advantage of upheaval in Addis Ababa to seize large swathes of territory in the region. These efforts were supported by the Somali National Army, sparking the Ogaden War (1977-1978) between Ethiopia and Somalia, which ended with an Ethiopian victory. In this context, the failure of new governments to address demands for autonomy or self-determination in Ogaden during the 1990s (as neighbouring Somalia collapsed into conflict) inspired another armed rebellion, this time led by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). The conflict escalated considerably in 2007, after ONLF troops attacked an oil prospecting camp, leading to an increasingly harsh response from Ethiopian security forces and local Somali militias more opposed to the ONLF than Ethiopian rule.2

In 2011, the Government of Ethiopia asked their Kenyan counterparts to facilitate peace talks with the ONLF. The following year, the parties met for the first time in Nairobi under the guidance of a team led by a Kenyan Somali minister (Kenya has historically been more successful in integrating its Somali population) and advised by the NGO Conciliation Resources.3 After an initial round of dialogue resulted in a Declaration of Principles, ONLF leaders attended negotiations training in London with Conciliation Resources. However, progress stalled until, in 2015, Conciliation Resources advised the ONLF to begin talks with the regional administration of the Somali Regional State, which had grown in power and influence since 2010. After some initial overtures, these parties met for secret talks in Dubai in November 2017.4 This set the tone for more conclusive talks to take place after the unexpected change of power which brought the current Abiy Ahmed administration to power in April 2018. The ONLF declared a ceasefire in June, before attending negotiations in Dubai, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, culminating with the Asmara Peace Declaration on 21 October 2018.5

1 Tobias Hagmann. Talking Peace in the Ogaden: The Search for an end to conflict in the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia. (London, 2014) pp.13-4

2 Ibid. p.26

3 Aden Abdi. “Pathways to peace in Ogaden: Navigating symbolism in early peace talks.” Accord, Vol. 29. (2020) p.66

4 Ibid. p.70

5 Joint Declaration between the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Ogaden National Liberation Front (The Asmara Declaration), 2018. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/view/2231 (Accessed 3/11/2021)

Start Year


End Year



Somali Region, Ethiopia

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The governments of Kenya, Dubai, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, and Conciliation Resources




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