Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Benti, Getahun


AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF ISACKO DIBA YATTANI, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Historical Studies presented on March 29, 2022, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: THE DYNAMICS OF CROSS-BORDER RELATIONS AND CONFLICTS AMONG COMMUNITIES ALONG THE ETHIO-KENYA BORDER: THE CASE OF GABRA AND BORANA, 1905-2015 MAJOR PROFESSOR: Prof. Getahun Benti The nature of peace and conflict among ethnic groups that straddle borders of Southern Ethiopia, the Oromia region, and Marsabit County, Kenya has become a matter of concern in recent years. The long-time relationship that exists between the Gabra and the Borana is now in a disarray. Frequent conflicts and counter conflicts have become a routine. Against this backdrop, the study explored the dynamics of cross-border relations and conflicts among communities along the Ethio-Kenya border with emphasis on the Gabra and the Borana. The study employs a multi-disciplinary approach using history, political science, anthropology, and ethnography to analyze the complexities of ethnic conflicts in the region. A discussion of the “divide-and-rule” tactics of European imperial powers, who drew arbitrary lines between the rival ethnic groups, forms the background to a story that then moves on to competition over scarce natural resources. The study findings suggest that today, the conflict dynamics for Marsabit and Southern Ethiopia have changed from a resource-based to a politically ethnicized conflict planned and sustained by the political class. Many have lost their lives, been displaced, or had their properties destroyed. Further, the introduction of devolved administrative structures in both Ethiopia and Kenya has also increased competition for state resources and power among the ethnic groups in conflict. In addition, the state’s role as the custodian of security in averting perennial conflicts has come under criticism from the residents. The states response to security are slow and their partiality on issues of security than been the “promotors of peace.” As for peacebuilding, the traditional customary institutions and authorities have also been ignored, overridden, and weakened by the state institutions through the introduction of state powers, policies, and judicial systems which many perceive to compromise justice. The dissertation contributes to the literature on ethnic relations, the role of state boundaries during the colonial and post-colonial times, and cross-border peacebuilding.

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