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Ethiopia’s Ups and Downs under Abiy: Ethnic and cross border tension on the rise
Ethiopia’s Ups and Downs under Abiy: Ethnic and cross border tension on the rise

By - Anwar Abdifatah

Posted - 03-07-2019

Ethiopia’s communal violence has increased since Abiy Ahmed Ali took over the premiership on April 2, 2018. Positively, he has made peace with Eritrea, expedited a conciliatory hand to opponents, and pledged moves to free and fair elections, expanded political space, women participation in the political atmosphere and economic reforms.

But in the meantime, insecurity has increased rapidly, culture of impunity is so rife, the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) mounts and the economy is volatile. Though, the youngest leader of Africa makes some trajectory towards the economic privatization, political transformation in the horn, historic peace agreement with Eritrea and talks with the Ethiopian oppositions, the so-called OLF, ONLF and Ginbot 7. With all these positive changes, there are also enormous mistakes that had taken place under Abiy’s watch and debilitated all his positives, and plenty of political commentators believe that, Abiy’s reform is just cosmetic or artificial reform.

Somalis and Oromo

There is a long standing friction among the two neighboring communities, Somalis and Oromo, since time memorial. The two communities were contesting for the administration of the Diredawa city and this had resulted into conflicts among them on numerous occasion. When Abiy took office, Oromo paramilitary troops accelerated and increased their enmity against the gullible Somali community in Ethiopia.  Abiy Ahmed; the prime minister, belongs to the Oromo ethnicity. This gave his tribesmen the temerity to commit genocide and ethnic cleansing against their neighbour Somalis, and Abiy’s government gave no attention towards this blatant atrocities committed by his community of origin.

Qaloji camp hosts 100,000 Somali’s IDPs

This IDPs camp is located on the outskirts of Jigjiga, the capital city of the Somali region, and it is host to thousands of Somali internally displaced people expelled from their land after Oromo implements wave of attacks against the cherubic Somali community in Ethiopia.
Infamous Lemma Magersa, who have been the Federal minister of defence since 18 April 2019, and was previously the president of the Oromia region, is the one who is responsible most of the atrocities implemented by Oromo paramilitary troops against Somalis.

READ ALSO: Ethiopia – Divided by Ethnic Politics

Let me share with you a very painful story, one day 18 women and children of Somalis were locked inside a building and the building was set ablaze, roasted to death. This appalling and inhuman act was perpetrated by Oromo ethnic group, and the government kept silent. This disparity and culture of impunity is so rife nowadays in Ethiopia. So, the gross human rights violations that Oromo is committing are ample and crystal clear.

Somalis and Afar communal conflict

In the last months, there have been blatant and ample conflict between the Somalis and Afar. The two communities have plenty of things in common including appearance, culture, dress, cuisine, and traditional outfit. They also belong the Cushitic languages. Furthermore, Afar inhabits Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, while Somalis inhabits Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

The loggerheads and dichotomy between the Somalis and Afar can be traced back to land dispute. These two tribes were contesting for the three areas; Candhayto, Candhufto and Garbo-Ciise. Both sides claim the administration of these areas.
Different clashes happened between the two communities which belatedly propelled the deployment of federal government troops to quell new eruption of deadly ethnic clashes in the country’s north.

On May 03, 2019, in Jigjiga city, the cabinet of Somali Regional State (SRS) unilaterally nullified the 2014 agreement which transfers three towns to Afar regional state. The SRS’s cabinet rebuked the previous agreement among Afar and Somalis which gives Afar these contested areas. Also, the incumbent administration in the Somali region emphasized that, this agreement has no base under the federal constitution, and those permitted in this residential areas were contrabandist under the cover of Afar Regional State. This is because, these areas are fully dominated by Somalis who do not want to be under Afar Regional State. This intrepid decision made by the Somali Regional State’s cabinet came after 11 Somali pastoralists were killed by Afar regional state Special Forces.

The Afar ethnic group were getting moral support when Aisha Mohamed Mussa, a civil engineer from Afar, was appointed the first Ethiopian women to be the minister of defense. She worked in that capacity from October 2018 to April 2019. After Abiy made his third cabinet reshuffle within a year, she was appointed minister of Urban Development and Construction.

Cagjar (The president of the Somali region) and Addis Standard

The deputy and acting president of the Somali region, His Excellency Mustafa Cagjar in an interview with the Addis Standard during first days in this month said “Ethiopia is more stable than before one year”. Addis Standard then asked him, “why do you think so? Because, as you know and I do as well, since Abiy takes the office the displacement peaked, the security is fragile both the federal and some of the regional states has seen an increase in the communal violence, the law and order is weakening”. Cagjar, while persisting his temerity response said, “I said that because, I was talking beyond the displacement”. He also adds, “about two year ago, the federal troops and regional Special Forces were destabilizing the country”. Some political pundits believe that, the president was indicating the previous administration in the country led by Tigray ethnic group (TPLF), and his predecessor’s administration in the Somali region, especially (Liyuu Police). In the meantime, Cagjar says, “currently we don’t have armed oppositions against the government , OLF, ONLF , Ginbot 7 and other movements are ready to participate the political landscape in the country peacefully so, we are getting better and more stable than a year ago”. Furthermore, the president mentioned that, the country is vanquishing the culture of impunity for the last one year.

If this is accurate, why is notorious Lemma Megersa, the current minister of defense, who was previously the president of the Oromia region flexing his muscles? Lemma’s personality is sullied by the killings of Somalis and committing gross human rights violations in the country; especially he is the one behind the killings of thousands of Somali innocent people.

So, what type of improvement is the president telling the world? As long as Lemma is in the government and free to do as he will, the culture of impunity remains.

Even the president himself confirms that, there is 1.3 million internally displaced people in the country during the first year of his big brother’s government.  If things are so good then why are they also so bad? We can see there is a conflation. Cagjar is shying away to admit the bad things they committed under their watch, while demonizing their predecessors as an antidote. Again, the president quoted “communal violence and displacement are not a precursor for a very bad future; they are the residues of a very bad past”, still the president is applying scapegoating and loophole policy in order to dodge confessing these sticky wicket under their watch, which leads ultimately into elephant in the room.

READ ALSO: A Community Based Strategy for National Security

Cagjar also rebukes EPRDF, which the ruling party in the country for the last 27 years, and yet is still in power. He says, most of the communal violence, politics of resentment, enmity among the communities, state oppression were taken place under the watch of EPRDF. So, the big question is, Abiy was part of the previous administration led by Meles Zenawi, and additionally EPRDF is still ruling the country, so what is the difference? We can see how contradicting the president’s speech is.

Though, Cagjar says that, Ethiopian federal government and his regional administration is both applying “Maximum Restraints” against the dissidents, but this is not true indeed. Because, the federal troops were targeted enormous times by the Oromo Liberation Front’s troops (OLF) while, they were encamping their troops as part of the peace agreement with Ethiopian government, especially Oromia’s region and OLF. In the regional level, Cagjar’s government tended to target specific tribes as retaliatory actions, arresting well-known traditional elders. So, is that maximum restraint? Of course not, it’s self-defeating and baloney!

On May 19th, the Ethiopia federal troops with armed vehicle known as locally (UURAAL) destroyed wittingly tuk-tuk (Bajaj) with 7 passengers in Kabridahar under Korahey region, 5 of them died on the spot, while the two others were injured badly. So, we can see how the Ethiopian government is applying ruthless and relentless policy against the Somali innocent people on their own soil.

The Addis Standard also, asked the president the political future of the Somali Democratic Party (SDP), whether the Somali region’s party can have a space in the ruling party of the country, “the so-called EPRDF”.  Cagjar didn’t respond adequately and his response seems mumbled, this is because, EPRDF conglomerates only four parties from four regional states namely Amhara kilil, Tigray kilil, Oromia kilil and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region kilil. So, Somali region’s party is not in the room, and there are also other four regional states which don’t have political representation in EPRDF. So far, EPRDF bestrides only 4 regional states out of 9 regional states, and from here we can see disparity. As marked 2020, the upcoming election in Ethiopia will be free and fair election, so how can the election be free if the political arena in the country is overarching. Only a single party for the last three decades? It’s incompatible.

The most dumbfounding and mind-blowing thing was, when the Addis Standard asked the president “Are you recommending the gradual phasing out of the so-called regional Special Forces? He says “Yes, definitely. I recommend the gradual phasing out of these regional Special Forces.”
This reckless and immature respond shocked the Somali people across the horn of Africa. Because, he suggests disbanding (LIYUU POLICE), if this happens, then it will be easy for the Ethiopian federal troops, especially Oromo paramilitary gunmen to invade and dominate the Somali’s region land which is catastrophic.

The largest gas deposits ever found in Somali region!

The Ethiopian ministry of mines and energy declared that, British energy firm New Age (African Global Energy Ltd) has discovered 1.6 Trillion Cubic Feet of natural gas reserve in the Ogaden basin, Somali Regional State, especially in a locality called Elkuran. The Ethiopian State Minister of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum Guang Tutlam told to the media that an American Company, called Greencom, has requested the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to supply it with natural gas. This company proposes that, they produce various petroleum products from gas using by Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) technology which enables doing this. In 2007,

Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF ) killed 11 engineers and 74 individuals from china after they were trying assessing and producing oil from the region. Additionally, ONLF’S spokesman Cadaani Hirmooge rebuked the Ethiopian government for exploiting the natural resources of the Somali region before reaching out to the Somali region for political agreement and consensus between Ethiopian government and itself. The spokesman also added that, “this will create slippery and delusion across the country, and Ethiopia wants to give this natural resources to the other communities in Ethiopia which is utterly and completely unacceptable”.

The question however is, will the Ethiopian government provide the Somali region with the biggest allocation in the sales of this resources or it apply its marginalization and abnegation policy against them?

UNESCO awards Abiy is that Hocus-Pocus!

It is sickening, when UNESCO awarded Abiy the “Felix Houphouet-Boigny” Prize for Peace on the 2nd of May this year. They justified that, Abiy was the driving force behind the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Yes indeed, but on the other hand, Abiy fails the internal politics of his country. Tremendous internally displaced people is conspicuous in the country, the communal violence peaks. Ethiopia tops global list of highest internal displacement in 2018, more than 1.4 million forced to flee their homes as published in Internally Displaced Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
So, Abiy hoodwinks the world for his window dressing activities, but the reality on the ground is too different.

1- The Somali region and its people should bootstrap and defend their own land and natural resources from any aggressor.

2- All political movement in the region the so-called ONLF, SDP and others should demonstrate unity and solidarity internally

3- Cagjar must repent by saying “I recommend the gradual phasing out of these regional Special Forces” because, LIYUU POLICE is strong troops owned by the Somali region, not to specific person. So, if Cagjar hates the previous administration in the region, then he should dissociate the LIYUU POLICE and his predecessor.And his personal whims must not be applied over the region.

4- Ethiopian government must stop forthwith the naked aggression and permanent marginalization against the Somali community

Anwar Abdifatah Bashir (Freelance Journalist/Horn of Africa Political Analyst and independent researcher)
The views expressed belong to Anwar Abdifatah Bashir and he can be contacted here


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