Ethnicity and languages


Besides sharing similar geographic endowments, the countries of the Horn of Africa are, for the most part, linguistically and ethnically linked together,evincing a complex pattern of interrelationships among the various groups.

Tigre women

Somali speakers, as well as being the majority in Somalia and Djibouti, also comprise 97% of the Somali region in Ethiopia. Afar speakers are another group with a significant presence in three of the states: Djibouti, Ethiopia and Eritrea. There are presently several relatively widely-spoken tongues in the region, most belonging to the Afro-Asiatic language family, including Somali,Tigrigna, Oromo and Amharic languages. There are also dozens of other smaller linguistic groups, like the Nilo-Saharan Kunama and Nara languages, which are spoken as a mother tongue by the area's Nilotic minotiries.

Among the major ethno-linguistic groups of the region are:

  • In Djibouti: the Afar (Danakil) and the Somali (Gadabursi and Issa)
  • In Eritrea: the Afar, Bilen, Hedareb (Beni-Amer/Beja), Kunama and Nara (Nilotic), the Rashaida, Saho (Irob), Tigre andTigrinya. The Jebertis are Muslim Tigrinyas who consider themselves as a separate ethnicity, but are not recognized by other sources.
  • In Ethiopia: Afar, Agaw groups, Amhara, Gurage, Harar (also Hadere or Adere), the Irob (Catholic Saho), Saho,Sidama, Somali, Oromo, Tigrinya, as well as many other small groups (see also ethnicities listed at Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region).
  • In Somalia: the Somali, Benadiri, Bantu and Bajuni, among others.