The Somali Regional State is the second largest Region of the country next to the Oromia Regional State. The Region shares borders with the Afar Region, Oromia Region and Dire Dawa to the West, Djibouti to the North, de facto state Somaliland to the North-East, Somalia from East to South, and Kenya to the South-West. The Region is predominantly inhabited by the Somali ethnic group, but it is ethnically heterogeneous. Moreover, the Somalis in Ethiopia have social and political links with other ethnic Somalis in the neighboring countries, as in Somali culture, clan links are the most important social and political unit of organization. According to the last official census conducted by the Federal Government of Ethiopia in 2007, the Somali ethnic group is the third-largest ethnic group in the country (FDRE Population Census Commission, 2008). By 2017 it is estimated that the population in the Somali Region is around 5.7 million (FDRE Central Statistical Agency, 2013 Population Projection of Ethiopia for All Regions At Wereda Level from 2014 – 2017).
The capital city of the Somali Regional State is Jijiga. The Region is divided into nine Zones and 53 Kebeles. These nine Administrative Zones are Shinile, Jijiga, Degehabur, Warder, Korahe, Fik, Gode, Afder and Liben. However, since the establishment of ethnic federalism divisions in 1994, the Region disputes several borders with Afar and Oromia Regional States. With the Oromia Region, there were border disputes over 420 Kebeles (BBC, 2017), and to resolve these disputes, a referendum was held in 2004 with 80% of these Kebeles under the Oromia Regional State. However, the demarcation is not implemented in most areas. Thus, there are violent disputes at the borders of the two Regions.
Similarly, the Somali Region has border disputes over three Kebeles located in Afar’s zones 1 and 3 and Somali’s Sitti Zone of Adaytu Kebele of Mille Woreda, Undufo Kebele of Gewane Woreda, and Gedamaytu Kebele of Amibara Woreda. The Issa clan, which inhabits these areas, wants to be part of the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia while the Afar Regional State considers the area as an integral part of the Afar Region. Even though an agreement between the two Regional States has been signed in recognizing the three Kebeles as special Kebeles within the Afar Regional boundary, the elders of the Issa Clan (Ugaz) oppose this agreement. Hence, the conflict is still ongoing.