Ethiopia is in a historic political change; the charismatic young leader is accelerating sweeping reform reversing harmful policies and practices. Ethiopians who have not seen their loved ones for a long time and once denied or afraid of the Ethiopian Intelligence office to be labeled as a member of opposition group (deemed as a terrorist) are flaying back in masses. Media outlets that were blocked from the country and a couple of months ago watching or listening to them were considered a crime as has opened an office and are streaming life from the capital city. The Prime minister in his trip to North America has met with activist and opponents. Rightfully, the euphoria and exhilaration are sincere and we hope the nice and write message would translate into action. Yet, all Ethiopian are not fortunate enough to benefit directly from the change so far; while all Ethiopians regardless of their region believe and hope peace, development, and democracy is in the horizon, the peripheral regions, in a particular, the Somali Regional state has not been affected by the current change.
Somalis have always been treated as second-class citizens, for example when 1995, when a new legislature was inaugurated under the new constitution. Under article 61 # 2. “Each Nation, Nationality and People shall be represented in the House of the Federation by at least one member. Each Nation or Nationality shall be represented by one additional representative for each one million of its population”. Though there has never been any census conducted in the Somali region, yet in 1994 the estimate of the Somali Region was at 3.152.704, contrary to the law of the land, Somalis were given 23 whereas Tigray was estimated at 3.136,267 which was less than the Somali population and still was granted 37 seats. In spite Somalis inhabit the second largest ethnic region and the 3rd largest population in Ethiopia, they have been denied systematically and not been allowed to integrate fully to participate politically, economically and socially in any meaningful way so far. An open invitation has been extended to all Somalis for August 2nd, 2018 to gather in Dire Dawa to discuss and strategize how to participate and be part of the change that has to transpire in the rest of Ethiopia. The Dire Dawa conference organized by various movements of change has to unite all Somalis and direct an orderly and peaceful transition of power in Somali region and peace dialogue between the Somali and Oromo communities for lasting peace and co-existence.
In Somali Region, the Political instigated conflicts continue to kill innocent Somali and Oromo civilians and despite Human Rights Watch June 8th, 2018 shocking report “We are like the dead” the federal government has chosen to be silent and as a result a huge number of prisoner’s remains in custody in Jail Ogaden and other prisons. The so-called president of the Somali Region has publically accepted the atrocity he committed in the past 10 years and has accused TPLF and Getachaw Assafa, the ex-intelligence Director of forcing him to commit the killings and rapes of innocent civilians. Abdi Mohamud Omer still remains in power in Somali Region and continue to carry out crimes against humanity, he continues to jail and torture youth and elders that are inspired by the current wave of change in Ethiopia and solicit the same for the Somali region, not sure who he will blame for atrocities committed after Getachaw left the office?
The Somali Region elders, politicians, and intellectuals both in the diaspora and in the region have been gathering in Addis Ababa for the past three months to facilitate and expedite changes in the region. The Somali Youth (Barbaarta) in various cities in town are leading peaceful demonstration requesting the release of all prisoners, judicial reform at all levels of the Somali region, fair employment, trade and free speech and media outlets. The Somali region still remains a one-man state, where there is no law and order and Abdi Mohamud is the police, the investigator, persecutor and the Judge. For example, on Monday, July 30th, 2018 he summoned his cabinet and ordered for approval of 99 new districts and 22 new city councils in the Somali region, a desperate measure to create conflict and divert the narrative. All aspects of trade and business remain in the hands of his and his close family members. It is will not be an exaggeration to state that the Somali region is an open-air prison.
The Dire Dawa conference:
The Somali elders, politicians, youth, and intellectuals who are gathering in Dire Dawa regardless of their affiliation to SRAJ, Dulmidiid , ONLF Barbaarta or any other organization should focus on the unity of Somalis and sketch a short and long-term plan of a political roadmap.
- Short-term plan should include a transitional plan that is an orderly and peaceful transfer of power to the people. The goal should be to keep intact the fragile institutions and organizations that are the asset of the region and country. To ensure the unity of Somalis and not to fall for Abdi’s trap of division and desperate political tactics of a bribe, new districts and false promises of political prisoners in exchange for support. Abdi’s new narrative of staying in power until he transfers the power to the lawful owners of the region (ONLF) is a false and malicious tactic of divide and rule. As far as we know, Abdi Mohamud Omer’s mandate was to destroy ONLF and has succeeded in weakening the movement. He has killed and tortured thousands of ONLF members. He destroyed their information and financial networks. Furthermore, more than 700 prisoners of ONLF members’ are still in custody in Godey, as such, we trust ONLF leaders, members, and supporters not to be misled by his last desperate call. You have fought for what you believed for more than 25 years and your negotiations and agreement should be with the federal government not with Abdi Ilay!
- Long-term Plan: the delegates should focus on post-Abdi engagement in the region as well as the federal involvement and collaboration. Natural resources allocations and utilization of the region, reconciliation and peaceful dialogue within the Somalis and other Ethiopian ethnic groups particularly with Oromo and Afar regions where we have lived married and co-existed peacefully and will be difficult to draw a borderline to separate the two regions. With both regions, Somalis share a long border and have a population on both sides of administrative fences. Furthermore, the Somali Region will require a long-term plan to undo Abdi’s harmful policies and practices that will hunt the Somalis for generations to come.
Our dear friend, Mustafa Omer wrote recently in his Facebook “politics has winners and losers; it is not a draw where there is a win, win situation”. Equally, politics does not have permanent enemies or friends. The politics in Ethiopia has always been a very complicated one, every ethnic have its own history and more often that contradicts the narrative of the center of the power. Reforming institutions and releasing prisoners might not be sufficient enough to settle the deep divide of who is really Ethiopian and who is not, who is for federal system and who is not. The right of Ethiopian as an individual and as a community (ethnicity) has been debated for the past 100 years. The power sharing of the center and peripheral regions has been the cause for wars and cause for the tendencies for cessation. Somalis do not want more than their share in the federal government, correcting historical mistakes such as the federal government representation based on the Ethiopian constitution should not be a point of the divide, doing the right thing will remove any doubts and will be an instrument for healing. For example, The Prime Minister was asked in Minneapolis about the recent crude oil extraction in the Ogaden basin, it is an important question for Somalis and should not be taken lightly nor dismissed. We believe the way in which the oil project was implemented rise a serious question whether the resource is more important than the people. Of course all Ethiopian should share equally the resources, but in this case as any other naturals resources extraction that cause environmental disaster, the oil extraction project has displaced hundred thousand nomadic societies and has altered their environment forever, therefore ensuring the rights of the nomads who lost their grazing lands and homes for the sake of the rest of the country developments must be a priority, that is the only way we will be able to break the walls and build bridges, that is how we build a prosperous and democratic Ethiopia where each and every one feels included.
By: Ali Abdi
*The Karamarda Group is a group of Somali Regional State citizens who are interested in promoting Democracy and Good Governance in the Somali Region of Ethiopia and could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
**The views of the above article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Africa Speaks 4 Africa or its editorial team.