The Borana and Fur Conflicts:
Similar Features, Different Outcomes
The relatively tranquil settings of the Jebel Mara massive in northern Darfur in western Sudan and the Boran area in southern Ethiopia were profoundly disrupted during the 1980s by prolonged drought, which had persisted with minor interruptions, since 1967.
In the past, when faced with deteriorating natural conditions, people would move to a nearby virgin area (mobility being way of African life). There were enough empty corridors, then. Now, there are practically none. Climatic variations, large-scale mechanised agriculture for export purposes and urban consumption, as well as large increases in human and livestock populations have all conspired to limit or deny access to new resources. Ultimately, these ecological buffer zones have gradually lost their distinction as areas of refuge and as borders of cooperation among neighbouring peoples.
With the persistence of the drought, pastoral groups, in the Fur as well as in the Boran areas, began to fall apart. Livestock died in large numbers and their owners began to dispose of the rest for next to nothing. Soon after ‘the year of meat’ ended, ‘the year of famine’ began and the city merchants turned away from the collapsing economies, leaving them to their own fate. Abandoned by both nature and the market, life became a real struggle. These rural societies became ripe for dislocation, turbulence, and, ultimately war. At the height of the drought, in the mid-1980s, violent conflicts erupted in the Boran and Fur areas.